Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, friends, chefs, and co-owners of LA restaurants Animal and newly opened Son of a Gun, serve up their thoughts on snacks, grub, and rock & roll.
What do chefs and rock stars have in common?
Vinny: Being a chef isn’t as glamorous of a job but the hours and lifestyle are very similar. One of the major differences is that we don’t have as many women chasing us.
Jon: I think music and food go hand-in-hand in that they’re both an escape from reality in a weird way. When you’re sitting around listening to music you kind of get lost in it. I think that also happens when you’re eating.
First times: what’s the first record you bought? First meal you cooked?
Vinny: I grew up in the ‘80s so honestly I think the first tape I bought was Tone Loc’s, the one with “Funky Cold Medina.” As for food, I remember I wrote my first recipe when I was like seven years old for tortilla chips and cheese. The directions were like, “tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, thirty seconds in the microwave!”
Jon: The first album I got was Dr. Dre The Chronic. I bought it off my brother and then sold it to somebody else for $20 and got into a bunch of trouble when my mom found out. I caught the cooking bug while I was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant and I ate a sandwich that was made with a real baguette and real mashed potatoes. Growing up I ate Spuds and Wonder Bread and I remember eating that and being like, “holy shit!”
Let’s talk starters: what’s your ultimate side one, track one, and what’s your ultimate appetizer?
Vinny: For music, “Thunder Road” by Springsteen is a good choice. You can’t mess with the Boss. Or maybe the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” even though it’s not track one. For food, I’d say anything with foie gras would be the ultimate appetizer for me: cold, in a terrine, seared, whatever.
Jon: Right now I’m super into Kings of Leon so pretty much any of their songs would work. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite food – and I know it sounds crazy – but I’m always a sucker for chicken cutlets.
Let’s talk seduction: what’s your go-to soundtrack for getting it on, and what’s your go-to meal for getting a lady in the mood?
Vinny: I’d probably do a mix weaving in and out of stuff from Miles Davis to Elton John; I’d keep it mellow. I actually also like Norah Jones. Her music’s kind of soothing and pleasant. Cooking-wise I’d go for a dozen oysters with a rose and then a big ‘fuck you’ rib eye for two, paired with a big, fat Bordeaux. For dessert I’d do a piece of German chocolate cake.
Jon: I’m not a big Valentines guy so I would put on something that’s a little more chill and comfortable like Bob Marley. You can relax, kick back. That’s more my style then trying to win them over. I think girls in general like spicy food so I’d make a menu with that in mind.
On the road: what’s your ultimate road food and what are the best driving songs?
Vinny: Eating a cheeseburger and having a steering wheel in my hands is not ideal. I’d rather sit, eat, and move on so if I’m near a Chick Fil-A, that’s a must. For snacking I’d go for a big Sour Patch Kids bag. For music I’d probably annoy my wife and get into some of my old punk rock stuff like Bad Religion’s 80-85.
Jon: When I was in high school I’d tell you beef jerky and Doritos but now I’m more into finding local produce. The little stands on the side of the road are great. Like in Florida boiled peanuts are a thing, in Georgia people always think about peaches, and even raw corn on the cob when you’re going through Iowa. The ultimate road album for me would be Bob Seger’s Greatest Hits.
Food and music pairings - can you pair a dish with:
The Beach Boys
Vinny: Definitely fish tacos served on the beach.
Jon: Loco moco, bro! We do a version of it at Animal. It’s a classic Hawaiian surfer dish with spam, hamburger, rice, gravy and fried egg, but we add foie gras.
Jon: When I think of rock & roll I think of guys eating meat so I’d serve a prime rib nice and rare and bloody.
Vinny: He seems like a pretty decadent guy, so I can see him being into some badass white truffle pasta…maybe a little caviar to start and a little bubbly. But not Cristal.
Jon: Blackened catfish, collard greens, and pumpkin pie. I can totally see Dre sitting around eating pumpkin pie.
Vinny: I think he dabbles in meat so I’d do raw crudo and some nice raw seasonal vegetables, lightly dressed.
Guns n Roses
Jon: When I hear Guns n Roses I literally think of the Kibitz Room at Cantor’s Deli so I’d have to call out their pastrami sandwiches.
Vinny: I’d say a big roasted lamb shank carved tableside, like very gothic, you know?
Vinny: I’d make them a pizza cause that’s like all I ate when I was listening to their album! I just imagine myself surfing and barely having enough money, going in the car and eating a slice of pizza.
Jon: She’s crazy dude. I think she’d eat food from like wd~50 or Alinea. She’d be all wacky, going there in with her crazy outfits and they’d make her crazy food, food that I don’t even make.
Vinny: I’d try to do a tasting menu for her, like twelve courses of really small bites showing your repertoire. Things from everywhere, different flavors, different textures with a little more obscure, funky ingredients.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Jon: He’s from Gainesville so I think of like barbeque and smoked fish dip, food that’s more indigenous to central Florida.
Vinny: I’d make him pot brownies!
If you could invite all of your favorite artists to a dinner party, who would you invite?
Vinny: I’d have Jerry Garcia because I never got to see The Grateful Dead. Then probably the Allman Brothers; I love their music. Johnny Cash without a doubt. I’d invite Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Ben Harper. Then I’d have to say Jay-Z and Beyonce as a couple- he can’t get all of the spotlight. And Snoop Dogg- SoCal, man! He represents.
Jon: I’d invite all the members of The Grateful Dead, Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Eminem, 50 Cent, Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, and, I know it sounds kind of femme, but I love Stevie Nicks. I know that’d be an interesting group of people all at the table but maybe they could collaborate and make great music.
What would you cook?
Vinny: I’d do a whole raw bar with clams, mussels, oysters, lobster tails, king crab, and all that shit on ice. Then I’d do a whole roasted prime rib on the bone and a big salad of seasonal vegetables if anyone’s a vegetarian.
Jon: I’d make some fresh pasta and market salads; just keep it straightforward and simple. I feel like a lot of times people have parties and get a little sidetracked. Don’t make it too hard for yourself. For dinner parties I try to create dishes I can cook within an hour so I can actually enjoy the party and not feel like I’m working.
Who is the one artist out there now that you want to see live?
Vinny: I’ve never seen Tom Petty and I think he’s amazing.
Jon: I’ve always liked Willie Nelson. I grew up in Daytona Beach and we’d have bike week down there and that’s what listening to Willie always reminds me of.
And what’s the one restaurant that you haven’t eaten at that you’re looking forward to?
Jon: I’ve never been to Per Se. Outside of the country there are a lot of little places I’m looking at that aren’t big name restaurants. I recently went on this taco trip down to Tijuana and it opened my eyes to eating in mom and pop third world countries, not even really restaurants. I want to go to like Israel and have some old Israeli woman just throw down for me!
Vinny: Definitely Noma; who doesn’t wanna eat at number one, you know? Also El Bulli because they’re closing and I feel like I missed my opportunity to go there. I seriously tried every fucking way to get into that restaurant and to never get to eat that food and see what that’s about and understand it is kind of depressing to me!
What is your rock & roll fantasy?
Vinny: I would’ve loved to see Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison! I love that album and I think it’s just amazing to think that that actually went down, you know? Another thing I’m sad I missed were The Grateful Dead. I’m not a huge Dead Head but what they did for the time it’s just like, damn!
Jon: I would go to Woodstock, bro! That’s like the ultimate concert; it’s the one everyone talks about. That was a concert about freedom and it was at a time America was going through changes. I’m 29 years old and my generation has never had a concert like that. Then I would also see The Dead because my parents bought me tickets for their last tour and at the last minute they decided I was too young to go. I still hold that against them.
If you had access to a time machine and could have a meal anywhere, any time what would it be?
Jon: I would go to any of Jean-Louis Palladin’s places back when he was really cooking. It’s weird because as you grow as a chef you almost get removed from cooking. Or Paul Bocuse; he's like the founding father of cuisine.
Vinny: I’d like to have eaten some of the food that the African American community cooked for each other before the Civil War. They were dealt all the scraps and probably made something delicious out of nothing; I think that would’ve been an amazing thing to see.