Samantha Fore’s cooking career started with traditional Sri Lankan brunches cooked out of her home. When the crowd outgrew her kitchen table, she invested in a tent, equipment and some licenses, set up her tent behind Arcadium Bar, and became Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites. She made her money back in one day.
This incredible success has followed Fore’s journey thus far. Her unique cuisine has attracted attention from locals and beyond: she was recently featured in Plate Magazine as one of their “Chefs To Watch 2018”.
“And I work out of a tent,” she laughed.
“I’m lucky to have customers who are loyal and vocal.”
This loyalty is cultivated by a food experience that is both innovative and intriguing. She shares her cultural heritage through her Sri Lankan cuisine and at the same time, her passion for her Kentucky upbringing with Southern twists, such as curry-braised ribs and fried chicken.
“The blend of Sri Lankan and Southern food is more approachable for an average diner,” Fore said. “Most people are swayed by their experience with Asian food… so when they try it, they light up because they don’t expect the flavors they’re getting.”
Tuk Tuk finds its ideal home in Lexington among a wide and thriving food scene. Fore explained that, “the diversity of Lexington really plays to our benefit... there are all sorts of awesome food opportunities. The diverse experience makes it easier for people to embrace something new, while still keeping it authentic.”
Fore’s authenticity is a mark of the excellence in her unique menus. Steeped in tradition and her mother’s recipes, they feature fresh, local twists and a desire to, in her words, “translate food.” She shares her culture and aims to expand her reach in Lexington so that more can experience Sri Lankan cuisine. She said her food is a “combination of things I’ve enjoyed eating here, and making it my own. Everyone has a callback to their culture that resides in food.”
This unique culinary pop-up is growing in the form of events and restaurant takeovers, such as trading a tent for white tablecloth at Holly Hill Inn, or pushing her creativity alongside other talented chefs at 610 Magnolia. However, Tuk Tuk still makes consistent appearances behind Arcadium, which can be followed through their website (tuktuklex.com) and social media
Most excitingly, customers can look forward to a brick and mortar location in the near future. Fore is teaming up with Arcadium to open AteBit, likely coming in Spring of 2019.
As the business evolves and grows, customers are sure to see an ever-evolving creativity through Fore’s unique culinary point of view, as a large part of her passion lies in learning, experimenting and expanding her skills.
“I love going around the town and region and trying new things,” Fore explained. She said she holds a deep love for taking what she finds locally and seeing what she can create with it. “Every day of my life has turned into a Top Chef challenge at this point.”
It’s Fore’s drive, authenticity and local passion that is slowly making Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites a must-try Lexington staple – even when it’s out of a tent.
Q&A with Samantha Fore
What is your favorite thing to cook?
I really like cooking fresh veggies… whatever’s in season.
What is your go-to Lexington eatery?
Tortilleria y Taqueria Ramirez. They have the best burritos.
What would you do on an ideal day-off in Lexington?
A drive down Old Frankfort Pike, stop at Wallace Station and get an ice cream... I just love that I can take a quick drive and clear my head driving through all the horses and scenery.
Is there anything you get tired of cooking?
Not really. People’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on me.
What inspires you?
My mother, and the fact that my friends always push me to do more and aim higher. I have a strong support group around here.
What is your “guilty pleasure” food?
Macaroni & cheese
Anything we would be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve worked in a lot of different industries before food, like music and advertising.