Jon Shook, Chef, Owner
Vinny Dotolo, Chef, Owner
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo opened Animal restaurant in June 2008 to widespread acclaim. Since opening it’s doors the duo has been awarded some of the most prominent national accolades including, Food & Wine Best New Chefs of 2009, two James Beard nominations, Rising Star Chefs by Star Chefs and Wine List of the Year by GQ Magazine.
They have been covered in numerous publications, including, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, The New Yorker, Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine magazine, and have appeared on The Morning Show, Last Call with Carson Daly and NPR’s Good Eats. The duo still operates a full service catering company, which opened the door for an appearance on Iron Chef America and paved the way for their own Food Network show, 2 Dudes Catering. Continuing their success, the guys wrote their first book for Random House publishing titled, Two Dudes One Pan. It was voted one of NPR’s “10 Best Cookbooks of 2008”.
Jon and Vinny met while attending culinary school at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Their first job together was in the kitchen of famed chef Michelle Bernstein at The Strand Restaurant in South Beach. They continued to work in numerous other top chef kitchens in south Florida, including: Mark Millitello’s of Mark’s, Oliver Saucy of Café Maxx and Doug Reese of The River House. They left Florida to work with Ray Roach at the Wildfower Restaurant located in The Lodge at Vail 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’s before launching their own catering endeavor, and ultimately their first restaurant, Animal. Their second restaurant, Son of a Gun, will open in February 2011.
Director of Operations/ Beverage Director
Helen was born in New York City. Her mother taught her at a young age the importance of food and where it comes from, and every summer they would tend to a large vegetable garden. From there her passion for food and restaurants grew. After working for a short time at a restaurant in Madison, WI called L’Etoile, the experience inspired her to follow her dreams of working with food and wine. This led her to Los Angeles where she worked at Craft before joining Jon and Vinny at Animal in July of 2009.
Jonathan attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and worked at the school’s catering kitchen under Chef Bruce Mattel. During his studies, Mattel encouraged Jonathan to compete in the Skills USA competition in which he won a Gold Medal in regionals and Bronze in the national competition. After graduation, Jonathan moved back to his hometown of Huntington Beach, California where he came to appreciate the bounty of fresh, locally grown ingredients. He worked under Florent Marneau at Marche Moderne, and later moved to Los Angeles to join Tom Colicchio’s Craft Restaurant under the leadership of Matt Accarrino.
Jonathan also spent time at Mauro Colagreco’s Mirazur in the south of France and returned to join Tony Esnault at Patina where he spent a year in the kitchen. He opened Mezze as a sous chef with Micah Wexler and under his supervision the restaurant consistently received the highest of accolades from national press. Jonathan lives in Hollywood with his fiancée Alex and his pet pig Winston.
Sylvia was born in southern California, but grew up in the northern Bay Area. After graduating from UC Berkeley and working at internet companies during the dot-com boom, she discovered a love for food and the techniques behind keeping the integrity of the product while elevating it. She attended the California Culinary Academy and worked in San Francisco before continuing her journey to Chicago, and finally New York City. At Eleven Madison Park, she transitioned from the pastry department to the dining room staff and eventually became part of the opening team at the NoMad and the NoMad rooftop restaurant. Sylvia is excited to return to her roots and make Los Angeles her new home. She joined the Animal team in December 2012.
Michael was born in Mission Viejo, California but raised in Kansas City. His calling as a chef started in boy scouts where he was assigned the roll of grub master, whose duties included planning meals for their camping trips. In high school, his passion for create dishes was to cure the hunger of after school munchies for him and his friends. His dad pushed him to try a Chef Apprentice program in college and Michael realized it was a perfect fit. Michael has worked at The American Restaurant, The French Laundry, Redd, Craft and Quince. He joined the Animal team in December of 2010.