2016 South Florida Rising Star Concept Restaurateur Jeff Latulippe of DIRT

2016 South Florida Rising Star Concept Restaurateur Jeff Latulippe of DIRT
April 2016

DIRT
232 5th Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139
dirteatclean.com

Recipe

Photos

Jeff Latulippe has a passion for healthful, nourishing, clean food. But he hasn’t always. Several years and 60 pounds ago, Latulippe was a student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He was focused on international studies and business, and studied abroad in Barcelona. Before graduating in 2007, Latulippe also completed an internship at the Executive Office of the President at The White House. As an ambitious post-grad, Latulippe worked as an investment banking analyst on Wall Street for three years and then spent five years rising to senior associate at Harren Equity Partners in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Then a shift occurred (or maybe more of a drop). Call it enthusiasm, fanaticism, obsession … Latulippe had discovered healthy living while he was in college, eventually lost 60 pounds, and decided that is was time to share the benefits of his lifestyle with anyone with an appetite. Latulippe wanted South Florida diners to have delicious, intriguing, healthy options every day and at a reasonable price. It was also important to him that this type of cuisine be backed up by a fresh, local, sustainable ethos and infrastructure.

Latulippe’s physically fit brainchild was born: DIRT. The simple, convenient, nutritious concept serves fast fine food from early morning until 9pm, seven days a week because healthy living doesn’t get a day off. DIRT, as it adds stores across the region, strives to support local farmers and to make South Florida a more healthful place to eat.



Interview with South Florida Rising Star Concept Owner Jeff Latulippe of DIRT

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Jeff Latulippe:
I started out in business, investment banking in New York for three years. I did four and a half more years in private equity, and then started writing a business plan for DIRT. That’s when I left that career officially. I approached it like I would other investments. For me, personally, I didn’t know anything about healthy food or taking care of myself. In college, I was 210 pounds, and started eating better and exercising. When I hit 150 pounds, I realized this was a passion of mine. I wanted to do something that would be more for any time of day.

CH: What’s the concept behind DIRT?
JL:
Fine food, fast. Chef made and driven, high-quality food. Fast casual setting with an emphasis on premium ingredients: local, organic, sustainable. We wanted to create a concept that brings everything together, not just chef-driven, local, etc. We wanted to create something that would have those elements, and that would be approachable from a price and dietary standpoint. We wanted to make it so people with restrictions or preferences could find what they wantes. Healthy-ish places are almost always plant-centered and vegetarian. We are vegetable-centric. My dad has no interest in health. If we were vegan and vegetarian only, it would be a lot harder. 

CH: What design element you love most in your restaurant? 
JL:
We’ve got a copper wall at the entrance with an intricate map of Florida that shows the local purveyors that we support. I love the design because it takes the typical chalkboard list to the next level. Plus, it’s simply beautiful.

CH: What steps have you taken towards becoming a sustainable restaurant?
JL:
We use real plates and silverware for dine-in orders (no melanine or disposable plates) and eco-friendly packaging for takeaway. We also use glass bottles for our cold-pressed juices and shots. For the 16-ounce juices, we have a $2 bottle deposit that our guests pay when they purchase a juice. We then return their deposit when they return the bottle, which we wash and reuse. We also recently began donating our coffee grounds and juice pulp to the Miami Beach Senior High School Ecology Club for composting. And we purchase 100 percent pollution-free energy through Arcadia Power.

CH: Who are your diners?
JL:
Health-focused diners. We’re right across the street from Equinox. Trainers, people coming from the gym. People who have gluten sensitivities, vegan, and can appreciate the separate menus.