By Rebecca Combs, Foodable Contributor
There's a certain type of mystery that goes with the concept of an underground dinner. It's unexpected, unconventional and unique. The entire experience is different for each dinner, which is part of its charm and appeal.
In Dallas, Chef David Anthony Temple (Chef DAT) could be considered the “King of the Underground” – after four and a half years, he knows what he's doing. But he did not start on the culinary path. Originally from New Orleans, David was a rap artist growing up and never went to culinary school. He started cooking full meals at the age of twelve and now puts his creativity into his food and dinners.
Chef DAT’s Underground Dinners
So, what is an “underground dinner”? Well, in the case with Chef DAT, you sign up to receive email notifications. Early in the week, you get an announcement that there will be an underground dinner that Friday and Saturday. It's usually five courses, and sometimes the menu is revealed ahead of time — but not always. The location? Well, that is only disclosed when you email back with your name, how many are in your party, and a credit card number. Of course, the environment is much different than having a permanent restaurant. According to David, “everybody has their day job.” It seems difficult to plan out a menu and have everybody on the same page, but David makes it sound like a piece of cake. On Sundays, he and his staff get together to discuss what they want for the menu that week. “We get the ideas and then I see what comes out of our local market. So, I talk to my farmers and my producers and then I have to base my menu off that.”
It would seem that the combination of a former rap artist and a fine dining chef would clash. But it's that contrast and eclectic vibe that gives David's dinners a fun energy — fine dining in a hip setting with fun people and a relaxed atmosphere. From LA to Colorado to Napa to Dallas, Chef DAT has brought his funky fine dining flare all over the United States. His dream dinner would be floating (possibly) on the Seine “in a big boat at dusk, just as the sun is going down – all French.”
Expect the Unexpected
All you can expect from an underground dinner (especially from Chef DAT) is the unexpected. “You never know what you're going to get,” he says. One night it can be calm, and the next people will be on tables doing the Harlem Shake (yes, this did happen).
Sadly, the underground era with Chef DAT is coming to an end — but it's not the end of him or his food. His ultimate goal has been to own a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and that is exactly what his next venture will be. Located in Deep Ellum, he is hoping to open the doors in November. The restaurant will basically be a permanent version of what diners have been experiencing with Chef DAT in the underground. It's going to be called “27” because there will be 27 seats. The reservation process will be much like the underground. Diners will have a few 5-course menu options and experience the essence of fine dining with a twist. Be on the lookout: Chef DAT may surprise you with a few “rogue dinners,” as he calls them — something along the lines of “cooking in the middle of the woods.”
Underground dining is a fun way to experience food and get to know the stories and chef behind the menu. It's a narrative and an expression of who they are. So, if you want to get outside of your comfort zone and live life on the cutting edge, do some digging and find your local pop-ups, rogue, and underground dinners. Enter in with an open mind and you will leave wanting more. As they say, “DAT’s what’s up.”