Hot and Hot at Twenty


Chris and Idie Hastings

Chris and Idie Hastings

One of the city’s signature restaurants turns 20 this year. 

 

Hot and Hot Fish Club was founded by Chris and Idie Hastings in 1995 in a historic building on the city’s Southside. From this singular space, they have built a national reputation as one the country’s most refined and authentic restaurants.

The couple met in Birmingham after Chris graduated from Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Providence, Rhode Island, and went to work for Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar & Grill. Later, the couple moved to the Bay Area where Chris worked under Bradley Ogden to open the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, California. While on the West Coast, Idie enrolled in the California Culinary Academy and worked in the kitchens of Jeremiah Towers’ Stars Café and Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio and at Patisserie Francaise. In 1995, the Hastings came back to Birmingham and the Hot and Hot Fish Club was born.

The honors followed. In 1998, they were recognized with the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence and since then have been extensively featured in the media, most notably in The New York Times, USA Today, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, Food Arts, and Food and Wine. Chris was honored with the James Beard Best Chef: South award in 2012, the year he also won Iron Chef America versus Bobby Flay. Idie has also garnered wide acclaim, notably when Birmingham Business Journal named her to their list of the Top 10 Birmingham Women in 2003.  In her free time, she dedicates her energy to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and is committed to animal welfare causes, including Hand in Paw, an animal-assisted therapy group.

The Hastings actively participate in charity events with the James Beard Foundation and have been guest chefs and speakers at the Music to Your Mouth Event at Palmetto Bluff, the Charleston Wine+Food Festival, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. Chris also serves as an advocate for the Alabama Seafood Commission and director of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundations Culinary Council.

The building that houses Hot and Hot Fish Club has a storied past, beginning as Caddell’s Creamery, a popular burger joint in the 1950s, later transforming into Upside-Down Plaza, a memorable pool hall and neighborhood bar in the 1970s and ’80s. The building’s original design largely remains today, thanks to architects Joe and Chris Giattina and Marzette Fisher, formerly of Birmingham’s Fisher, Giattina and Aycock.

Rebecca Hatcher (Hatcher Design Associates, Inc.) and Liz Woods (Liz Hand Woods Association) carefully curated the dining spaces to feature renowned artists, including Dick Jemison, Marcia Unger, Rise Delmar Ochsner, and sculptor Bob Lehman. Musician Robert Moore crafted the harvest table and matching hutch in the Harvest Room. The chandelier and many of the iron-and-wood chairs were built by blacksmith John Ledford, and John Hollingsworth is credited for the design of many of the remaining chairs. Well-known potter Tena Payne developed a signature line of pottery, from dinner plates to espresso cups, and continues to supply them from her Leeds Earthborn Pottery studio.

 

Hot and Hot 1Quotes from Customers

I think the most fun I had at Hot and Hot is the night Iron Chef was shown and they had a live broadcast. On a regular basis, I must say any time we have a group dinner (larger than six), it is always special. The staff and the chef at Hot and Hot go out of their way to provide an experience that is special and fun.The cocktail menu, with their unique presentations, is something memorable andt fun to see. The personal attention the entire staff delivers makes you feel like you’re at a private club.

—Jared Lewis

 

“Hot and Hot and Chris and Idie have held special places in the hearts of all my family. Over the years, we have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and countless other special times. Hot and Hot is not just great food, but a wonderful place that is very much a part of our family!”

—Ed Aldag

 

“I remember when the location now known as Hot and Hot Fish Club was another venue. It was the famous place of the old PLAZA sign upside down. That city scene was the place to see and be seen.  I like it better as a restaurant and have many great memories there as a serious foodie.”

—Nez Calhoun

 

“Hot and Hot Fish Club is as unique as its name. For years we have loved pulling up a stool to the chef’s counter and watching the magic that happens in a professional kitchen known for its comfortably Southern and innovative food. Having the opportunity to observe firsthand as the cuisine, the staff, and the menu evolve is like watching a delicious reality show. As amateur foodies, we have learned new cooking techniques and ingredients, while getting to know passionate young chefs and waiters dedicated to their craft and excited to train under Chris and Idie. We love their food and the friendly atmosphere; its always fun to go to a place where everybody knows your name!”

 -Lila and Tommy McGahey

 

“When the two of us dine by ourselves at Hot & Hot, we always ask to be seated at the chef’s counter.  Over the years we have made many friends there and almost always meet newcomers who are dining at Hot & Hot for the first time. Because the chef’s counter is such a warm friendly place to sit and watch the wonderful food being prepared, it is one of our favorite places on earth.

One of the dishes we cherish is the trio of different pork preparations.  Although it has been on the menu for several years, the dish continues to change.  Almost every time we have it we think Chris and his team have achieved perfection, but then somehow the next version is even better.

We have a favorite story about Hot & Hot involving monkfish liver, but Chris probably wouldn’t appreciate it.”

-Ray and Mary Lou Ideker

One Response to “Hot and Hot at Twenty”

  1. Mary Perko says:

    My proudest moment was the day that Chef Hastings agreed to do a demo at our farmers market in Helena. He was gracious and so generous in his time. As a result of Chef agreeing to this demo, the rest of the chefs eagerly signed up.
    He is a rarity, he is a top notch chef, without the pretentious attitude that frequently comes with that title. I will always be grateful for his time given to the market.

Leave a Reply