Chef Vinny Dotolo of Animal Restaurant - Biography
Los Angeles, CA
Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook bring a whole new meaning to the phrase dynamic duo. They met while attending culinary school at The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale in Florida, and they haven’t had a reason to split up since. “We work together as a team, so wherever one of us went, the other went,” Shook says. Dotolo and Shook worked together at Michelle Bernstein’s The Strand in South Beach, Mark Millitello’s Mark’s, Oliver Saucy’s Café Maxx, and Doug Reese’s The River House. They left Florida to work with Ray Roach at the Wildflower Restaurant in Vail, Colorado. Continuing their trajectory west, they landed in Los Angeles in 2001 where they worked with Govind Armstrong and Ben Ford at Chadwick until the restaurant closed in 2002.
Unemployed and running short on cash, the two were hired to paint Ben Ford’s house; instead of painting they ended up cooking, and that turned into a gig cooking for Ben’s father, actor/producer Harrison Ford. In 2004, Dotolo and Shook launched their first joint venture, the catering company Caramelized Productions. The two twenty-something caterers were something to see—or so thought producers at The Food Network after their appearance on Iron Chef America. Their TV series “2 Dudes Catering” aired in 2007; their cookbook, Two Dudes, One Pan (Clarkson Potter), hit bookstore shelves in 2008.
With their catering company going strong, Dotolo and Shook wanted a place of their own to cook what they wanted (instead of what other people want). Their “meat-centric farmers market-driven restaurant, Animal, opened in June of 2008; nine months later they were named Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” for 2009 and were nominated for “Best New Restaurant” by the James Beard Foundation. The dynamic duo plans to open more restaurants in Los Angeles and possibly San Francisco and New York.