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

by Caroline Hatchett
April 2016

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.