Longtime friends and business partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo bring a singular vision to just about everything they do. And they do a lot.
The restaurateurs and chefs opened the meat-centric Animal restaurant in 2008, and won a James Beard Award for it in 2016 (while winning celeb fans the likes of Jessica Alba, Jon Favreau and Justin Timberlake). They opened Son of a Gun (casual seafood) in 2011; and then came their forever buzzing Italian spot on Fairfax, Jon & Vinny’s. On top of that, they run Carmelized Productions, a catering company frequently called upon by the Hollywood elite. They’ve got a hand in Ludo Lefebvre’s three LA restaurants, as well as Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson’s Kismet in Echo Park. They’re even partnering with Delta Airlines, to kick those first-class meals up a few thousand notches.
Collaboration is no foreign territory. So it made sense then, that in celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Animal, they’d call upon their celebrated chef brethren and sistren for the honors. They’re officially calling it The Animal 10th Anniversary Fairfax Tour, which will be a year-long series of exclusive dinners created by some of the industry’s biggest names: Thomas Keller (French Laundry), Tom Colicchio (Craft LA), and Gabriela Camara (Contramar) are all on board. Check out the full list of participating chefs.
In the lead up, we sat down with Dotolo, who spilled some of the details of the tour.
How did the idea for the Fairfax Tour come about?
We wanted to celebrate the milestone by having friends, mentors and colleagues come cook with us at Animal. The tour idea was set as if a band was to come to a famous venue to play. This will be like that.
Ten years in this business is no small feat. What are some of the ways you’ve seen the restaurant grow and evolve that have been particularly inspiring to you as chefs and restaurateurs?
Ten years feels pretty amazing, it’s honestly a dream come true. The restaurant is constantly changing and evolving from food and drink to service procedures, uniforms, new bathrooms. Sometimes it’s things people don’t see; we always seem to be fine-tuning daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. What inspires us is our amazing customer and fan base, as well as our amazing teams that make it all happen every day.
You’ve got an incredible roster of chefs on board for this tour. How did you manage to get everyone to come on board?
Some of them have cooked at Animal before, like Chris Kostow, Naomi Pomeroy, and Nate Appleman. We literally just started texting and asking people and we had a really great response. We had so many others we want to invite, but it was hard to squeeze everyone into the time frame we set.
Do you see this as potentially going beyond just the year?
We’ve been doing a “cooking with friends” series since the first year at Animal. Sometimes it’s been a lot of people in a year and sometimes it’s mellow. We’ve hosted lots of cookbook dinners over the years, but as far as the ten year is concerned, we are just planning what we’ve outlined…though we might add a second leg [of the tour].
What kind of presence will you have at the dinners, if any?
We will do some things on menus if the chef we are hosting wants us to. We’ve split menus in the past, and also let them have the entire thing. It’s really up to them. Our job is to be good hosts and give them all the support they need and show them a good time in LA.
What are you most excited about with this tour?
Giving our staff the opportunity to learn from these incredible people and chefs.
(Each dinner will be formatted differently based on the chef. Tickets will be sold on RESY. Pricing and details for each will be announced 30 days prior. To stay in the loop and score tickets, sign up for the Animal newsletter on their website.)