Jon Shook, Chef/Owner + Vinny Dotolo, Chef/Owner
Los Angeles chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are the owners of animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec and Petit Trois. They have been credited with innovating and changing the dining scene in Los Angeles through their critically acclaimed restaurants.
Their partnership began over a decade ago when they met in culinary school at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. While at school, they worked for Michelle Bernstein at The Strand and Mark’s Place by Mark Militello, and after graduation, they traveled west and worked at The Wildflower in Vail, CO. In 2002, they landed in Los Angeles and worked at Chadwick for Benjamin Ford and Govind Armstrong, which would inspire them to launch their initial catering company, Carmelized Productions. Carmelized Productions was a huge success. It paved the way for their own TV show on The Food Network, plus, an award-winning cookbook, but Shook and Dotolo aspired for more. In the spring of 2008, they opened animal and then Son of a Gun in 2011. Shook and Dotolo’s most recent venture was a partnership with French chef, Ludo Lefebvre, and together they opened the highly acclaimed Trois Mec in 2013 and Petit Trois in 2014.
Shook and Dotolo have received numerous nominations and awards including Food & Wine’s 2009 Best New Chef, Star Chef’s 2008 Rising Star Chef, and four James Beard nominations including 2009’s “Best New Restaurant” for animal, 2011’s “Best Chef Pacific” and “Best Chef West” in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, Shook and Dotolo formed a culinary partnership with Lexus and were named Culinary Masters.
Helen Johannesen, 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 Whitener, Chef de Cuisine
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 Tran, General Manager
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.