Chef DAT on What Dallas Needs, New Orleans and Underground Dinners

Categories: Interviews

Louisiana native David Anthony Temple (aka Chef DAT), a pioneer of sorts of for the local pop up dinner scene, has been hosting his Underground Dinners since January of 2009. He grew up cooking with his family, but honed his skills (both in terms of cooking and ingredients) while working at places like Aurora and Spiceman's 1410. We met at Cosmo's in Lakewood, a funky little dive bar with a killer jukebox and a bunch of awesome retro lampshades.

When did you initially start cooking?
My grandma and momma taught me how to cook. I always took things and did them how I wanted.

["Super Freak" by Rick James is on the jukebox]

What was your first job in a restaurant?
I got my first job at 15, always loved food and just wanted to be around it--either if I was selling it or cooking it. I've been a front of house manager, trainer, just always in restaurants in some way.

Do you prefer one over the other (front or back of house)?
I like to be very hands-on, so I enjoy the front of the house. Cooking is where my heart is. I love to use my own recipes, but also like to be at the tables, checking on people making sure everyone is having a good time. I'm really a people person.

How would you describe your underground dinners?
I want them to be something that's outside the box--not just another damn dinner. There's an entertainment aspect, DJ's are there...

So, is there dancing?
No, it's chill. I'll bring in different kinds of artists. Sometimes I'll have a random guy just stand up and start playing guitar. He might just be sitting next to you the whole time, talking and stuff, and then he reaches under the table, grabs a guitar and starts jamming.

We've had painters, people who come in and talk about what kind of art they do. I had a 3-piece band from New York come play one time.

So, people who aren't familiar with you, are they going to --
-- They're going to meet a lot of people, and they're going to have a lot of fun. That's the thing - people socialize and make new friends. You never knew who you'll be sitting next to. All you know is that they're really into food. You might be sitting next to one of the top lawyers in the city, who's opening up $400 bottles of wine and sharing them with everyone at the table. Then, there's another local chef or musician. It's random.

How do you interact with your guests?
I go out and explain every dish. I tell them where it came from, how it's prepared, the back-story on it, why I made this dish, why I included it on the menu.

[Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" is now playing on jukebox.]

Where do you find your guests? Or where do they find you?
Just my email lists. That's how everybody knows about it. And it's been around for a while. A lot of it is just word of mouth.

And you're not just in Dallas anymore, right?
We've done dinners in Hawaii, New Orleans, about to do my first in Houston and Colorado, then going to San Francisco and Napa.

How do you get dinners set up in other cities?
Other people have lists too and I'll meet a random restaurateur or owner or chef, or someone will hear about us. And they'll say, "Hey, we're closed on Sundays, so come do your own dinner here then." Then send out an email and I'll do it.

If I have to go to Houston or New Orleans, why not go a day early and do a dinner? And I go through Shreveport a lot of the time. Momma lives in Shreveport, that's why I always go there.

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