Very few chefs would willingly subject themselves to the cutthroat world of catering, especially in a market as saturated with competition as Hollywood. But to Vinny Dotolo, the challenge of that market was not something to shy away from; rather, he chose to run headfirst into it, and his success is a testament to the quality of his creations.
Vinny met his partner Jon Shook while attending culinary school at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. After graduation, the two continued their professional journey together, first at The Strand in South Beach, then at Mark’s, The River House, and Wildflower Restaurant in Vail, CO. After a short stint as Harrison Ford’s personal chefs, Vinny and Jon launched the catering company Caramelized Productions in 2004.
In 2008, Vinny and Jon decided to open a place where, for once, they could choose the menu. Animal, their “meat-centric, farmer’s market-driven restaurant,” opened in 2008, and in 2009, Vinny and Jon received Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs Award”; in addition, Animal was nominated for a “Best New Restaurant” award by the James Beard Foundation. Animal’s continued success is a testament not only to Vinny’s hard work, but to the continued rise of creative new takes on food.
Specialties & Resources
As a caterer, Vinny demonstrated a unique ability to cook anything his guests could want, making him one of the more versatile chefs on this list. At Animal, the focus is more on the “whole-animal” ethic embraced by another chef on our list, Chris Cosentino. Vinny has utilized his experiences in other kitchens to create a menu that is at once conceptually daring and traditional.
The décor at Animal is no-frills- white walls line the dining tables, and the intended effect is for guests to focus on the meals in front of them. With dishes such as spicy beef tendon chip with charred onion pho dip, veal brains with vadouvan, apricot puree and carrot, rabbit larb with minutina, herbs, thai chili and crispy shallot, Mongolian sweetbreads with shiitake mushrooms, scallion and kochukaru, and bone-in ribeye with bone marrow butter and potato aligot, patrons should have no trouble focusing on the inventive delights on their plates.
Vinny’s “whole-animal” ethic is part of a burgeoning trend in the culinary arts, one that dares diners to reconsider what is considered edible while redefining what can be considered not only palatable, but delicious.