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Miami Tastemaker – Jeff Latulippe

Jeff Latulippe, Co-Founder & General Manager, DIRT
Jeff is a former Wall Street private equity executive and a health enthusiast who after embracing a healthy lifestyle lost a third of his body weight. After years of helping others successfully grow their business, he got the entrepreneurial bug and decided to pursue his passion of healthy eating with his own venture. We met Jeff a few weeks back when we dropped by DIRT to check out their much talked-about menu. He was attentive and incredibly detailed about DIRT’s seasonal menu, locally sourced ingredients and nutritional value. He’s one of the reason we love coming to DIRT so much and why we approached him about participating in our Tastemakers series.

Read more to learn about the DIRT menu from the founder himself in the interview below. You’ll discover what talent he’d most like to have and why pizza makes the top of the extravagance list. 

Can you tell us a little about the Dirt Menu?
Like any restaurant, our menu is a representation of who we are. DIRT is an inclusive concept with something for everyone. We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and our menu is flexible enough to satisfy pretty much anyone’s palate. We even have alternative vegan, gluten-free, and paleo menus to make it easier for guests with those dietary restrictions / preferences.

While we’re a health-focused concept, it’s important to us that we have a wide variety of options, some of which are a little more indulgent. I call the Sandwiches + Wraps section of our menu “my dad’s turf”, as the options tend to be a bit more indulgent. For example, our DIRTy Steak + Cheese, made with herb-marinated grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free steak, jalapeño Monterey jack cheese, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, tomatoes, sunflower sprouts, and a horseradish “aioli”, is probably the heartiest option on our menu. We give you the option of making it a really filling sandwich on two slices of Zak the Baker Bread, or you can go with a collard green wrap if you’re looking for something a bit lighter.

What is your first memory of food?
Well, I’ve got a notoriously terrible long-term memory. With that said, my first “food” memory is dropping a big glass bottle of apple juice on the floor of our new house. I was 3 and the glass shattered and juice went everywhere. Needless to say, not the happiest of memories!

Beyond that, my fondest childhood memory is eating loads and loads of incredible Italian food at my aunts’ houses during summer vacation.

What is your biggest extravagance?
Pizza. And pretty much any of our desserts at DIRT, but especially our vegan lemon hazelnut shortbread. It’s ridiculous.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I certainly can’t cook to save my life (the irony!), so that would be a great talent to have!

What is your most marked characteristic?
Obsessive organization and cleanliness—two traits that I think translate well to the restaurant business!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Opening DIRT and getting off to a great start was probably my greatest achievement. It was my first time opening a new business, let alone a new restaurant (not to mention my background is in something completely unrelated—finance). Among other things, it took a tremendous amount of research, planning, organization, persistence, and of course, money.

What do you most value in a meal?
I really like unique, fresh approaches to pretty much any type of food. Before we opened DIRT, my partner and I read Setting the Table, Danny Meyer’s book about hospitality and his experience opening successful fine dining restaurants in NYC. One of the things that really stuck with me was his insistence that every dish at his restaurants add something to the culinary conversation. In other words, don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it. That’s our overall approach to every menu item we do at DIRT—everything is unique and chef-made, from our two-ounce shots to our seasonal plates and bowls.

What is your foodie motto?
Quality over quantity.

Describe the Miami food scene in three words.
Emerging, eclectic, energetic.