Q&A with Dan Latham of Moto Bene Pizza

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Dan Latham is a talented chef who, similar to Hugh Acheson, has achieved critical acclaim in smaller Southern town and now is bringing his talents to Atlanta. Latham is a James Beard nominee whose former Oxford, Mississippi restaurant, L& M’s Kitchen, was lauded by Gourmet magazine as one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the country. He has started selling pizzas from a mobile kitchen, under the name Moto Bene Pizza, at metro area farmers markets, where they are earning rave reviews. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat briefly with the former Babbo chef about his food truck and his plans for the future.
 
Q: What is the story behind Moto Bene?
 DL: Moto Bene Pizza is a concept that gives a nod to all the great street food vendors in the country. I really wanted a platform to showcase the best of seasons and that was fun and approachable. We gathered a lot of inspiration from a few key vendors in San Francisco, and wanted to bring that to the South. We are building bridges between family farms, regional artisan producers, and the pie. Our concept takes the best ingredients we can source from the local farmstands and transforms them into great pizza.
 
Q: What brought you to Atlanta to start the Moto Bene concept?
DL: My wife works for Spanx and we came to Atlanta for that opportunity. My business partners live in Birmingham—so for the first year we were here, I commuted to Birmingham four days a week. I actually kept a fully furnished apartment there that acted double-time as my office. After the year on the road, my wife and I had a heart-to-heart about being in the same place for our kids. Atlanta just made sense to us in regards to the professional market place. I also joined Georgia Organics and realized there was a huge group of like-minded folks doing the right thing with food.
 
Q: Is there a brick and mortar location in your plans?
DL: Yes. It is important for us to have a home base so people can have a place to go during the market off-season—and so we’ll also have a good support system for our ovens out on the street. We are shooting for the first shop to open when the farmers markets come to an end. Our model calls for us to center around the farmers markets we serve, so based on that the communities of Buckhead, East Atlanta, and Dunwoody are in our sights.
 
Q: Last question: What are your favorite spots to dine in Atlanta?
DL: Holeman & Finch, Antico, the bar at Bacchanalia, the bar at Miller Union, Shaun’s, Taqueria Ramirez, Pho #1 and the cafeteria inside Dekalb Farmers Market.

NEWS AND NOTES:

This year’s Taste of The Nation Share Our Strength event was truly was a party with a purpose. The May 12 event held at the Georgia Aquarium raised over $700,000 to combat child hunger here in Atlanta. Kudos event chairs Pano Karatassos and George McKerrow; the host committee and sponsors and the participating restaurants for their sterling efforts. Honorary chef, Dallasite Dean Fearing graciously shared his time with the spirited crowd (which included Atlanta Hawk ZaZa Pachulia who hinted that he is going to reopen ENO by ZaZa) and proved to be the star of the evening. The Texas legend said that when he is in town he likes to eat at both of Kevin Rathbun’s spots as well as Shaun’s and anywhere Pano Jr. is hanging out.
 
John Kessler reported that Table 1280’s Tracey Bloom will represent the ATL on Top Chef DC.

Speaking of the AJC: To echo other reports, Meridith Ford Goldman has given her notice at the paper. She’ll be pursuing public relations work and a blog.

Brookhaven. Tomorrow’s News Today is reporting that New Jersey based Slack’s Hoagie Shack is opening their first Georgia operation in the TOWN development this spring.
 
Buckhead. Bill Addison broke this on Twitter a couple weeks back, but maitre d’ Claude Guillaume has officially announced he is leaving the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead to become the general manager for Davio’s, the Italian steakhouse slated to open in Phipps Plaza this fall.
 
What Now Atlanta is reporting that the Buckhead Saloon, closed since 2005, will reopen in the former Rio Grande Cafe site in mid July.
 
Cabbagetown
. Creative Loafing is reporting that Cabbagetown Market & Grill has reopened.
 
Downtown. Panchero’s Mexican Grill has closed.   
 
Dunwoody. Atlantan, Stacie Vande Wetering has been named Executive Chef for the W Hotel Perimeter.
 
MidtownBesha Rodell first reported that ENO by ZaZa may be closed and that there is a new concept being planned by the owners for the location.
 
Morningside. Several media outlets are reporting that Grindhouse Killer Burgers will open its second location on Piedmont Avenue in September.
 
 Reynoldstown. What Now Atlanta is reporting that Home Grown, a new restaurant concept featuring a “family style” lunch and dinner menu, will open on Wednesday, May 19, in the former Mammy’s Kitchen spot at 968 Memorial Drive.
 
Question of the Week: What Atlanta chef has their lamb barbecue recipe included in barbecue guru Steven Raichlen’s latest book, Planet Barbeque?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What former Atlanta chef is rumored to become the new chef de cuisine at The Plaza Hotel in New York?—is Nicolas Bour, formerly of Iris and MidCity Cuisine locally.

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