L.A. Diet

Chef Jon Shook Grazes at Animal and Celebrates Vinny Dotolo’s Impending Fatherhood at Jar

Jon Shook in the kitchen at Animal
Jon Shook in the kitchen at Animal Photo: Lesley Balla

Jon Shook is all hands on deck these days at his and Vinny Dotolo’s two restaurants, Animal and Son of a Gun. “There’s always something happening,” he says. “Tonight I’m expediting at Animal because that’s where I’m needed. I’ll wash dishes, bus tables, fill water glasses. Whatever I have to do.” In addition to the restaurants, the guys still run a busy catering business, and are trying to get lunch going at Son of a Gun. To top it off, Dotolo and his wife are about to have a baby (and may have by the time you read this). But there’s still time to play — after starring in a short film called Fish, he’s headed to Australia for the World Chef Showcase — and eat, whether grazing through his kitchens or hitting his favorite spots around town. “I’m a normal L.A. person,” Shook says. “I stay in my little box from, say, Highland to Beverly Hills. A 15-minute drive to anywhere.” Check out what Shook ate (even when he couldn’t eat) this week in today’s L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, Sept. 14
This was a special day, it was my day off. I usually get up at 7:30 every day, but today I actually woke up later, in Palm Springs, with a serious hangover. And really having no interest in anything but water. Water is my favorite drink. That’s pretty much all I drink. I don’t drink coffee.

We drove back to L.A. and the whole way I was hungover, not sure what I wanted to eat. So we ended up at Jinpachi for lunch. I love Jinpachi, it’s so good. It’s moderately expensive for dinner, but for lunch they have, what I get every time, a premium sushi lunch. Eight pieces of assorted sushi and a spicy tuna roll, and it comes with miso soup and a little sushi restaurant salad with soy sauce vinaigrette, that kind of thing. And still just drinking water.

I just chilled that day. For dinner, we ended up at South Beverly Grill. I had a French dip, and I shared the garden salad with my girlfriend, Shiri, and we also had barbecue ribs. And instead of fries and slaw, we had a potato hash and spinach. I had an iced tea with that. I probably had about ten iced teas, actually. When I go for it, I do. If I drank Coke all the time, see, I’d be jacked up on soda.

Thursday, Sept. 15
I usually end up eating only two meals a day. But when I’m at the restaurants, I graze. I taste a little bite of just about everything. Not things in finished fashion, just prep fashion. You can recognize a lot of problems that way. I got to work at Animal around 9:15 P.M., and grazed around the kitchen a little bit.

Then Vinny and Helen [Johannesen, director of operations for the restaurants[] went to a sandwich place nearby. I had a turkey sandwich, a bag of salt and vinegar chips, and a Pepsi. And I came back to work. First we went back to Animal, all three of us. Then we went to Son of a Gun.

Afterwards we went to Heath Ceramics to buy more plates for Son of a Gun. Then Vinny got a call from his wife, Sarah, who thought her water broke, so he left to get to the hospital. Now we were all so excited, so me, my girlfriend, Helen, and her boyfriend, Zach, all went to Jar to celebrate the baby news. We shared everything. We had fried Ipswich clams. We had the wedge lettuce salad, rib-eye, a Kansas City strip steak, and the pork chop. And we had creamed spinach, duck fried rice, French fries, and sautéed pea shoots on the side. I drank water and I also ate a lot of bread. I love that bread and butter there. We didn’t have dessert.

By the way, Vinny texts while we’re there, and says that he’s now sick in the hospital. And the table immediately decides it’s just nerves, but he’s saying it’s food poisoning. We kept saying that he’s just nervous, it’s his first kid. Except not soon after, I got sick. Yep, food poisoning from lunch.

Friday, Sept. 16
So, yeah, I was still sick, feeling weak. I just drank water all day. Couldn’t eat. I tried to work and went to Localicious, that event for the Santa Monica farmers market anniversary, but I was feeling so weak that my chef de cuisine at Animal, Mike Magliano, told me to go home. So I did. Oh, and Vinny’s wife ended up not having the baby.

Saturday,Sept. 17
I still wasn’t well for most of the morning, still kind of laid out and just drinking water. But around 2:00 P.M., I got like a quart of chicken noodle soup from Greenblatt’s. It took me three sittings throughout the day to finish the whole thing. I was supposed to go to friends and family at Michael Voltaggio’s ink., and I couldn’t even go to that. Me and Michael are tight, I felt so bad that I couldn’t go. Around 10:00 P.M., I ate three Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the freezer. That’s what did it. Finally felt better.

Sunday, Sept. 18
I’m finally coming back around, but I don’t really eat in the morning. I had a catering job for Meals on Wheels in La Canada, for people from the Cart for a Cause. They really wanted us to do the chicken sandwich, the one we serve at Son of a Gun. So we did that and a three bean salad, thick potato chips with caramelized onion dip, and we also made brownies and oatmeal cookies. And I ate all of that. That was my lunch. I eat the food that I’m making. There’s no better way of knowing if the food tastes good.

Then I went to Son of a Gun for a couple of hours, and grazed around the kitchen. Probably tasted some French fries, corn bread, a little bit of the country ham.

For dinner, we went to Madeo in Beverly Hills. It was the night of the Emmys, so it was kind of mellow. That place is definitely a Hollywood scene, but I love the old Italian feel, love the booths, the deep rich wood bar. We sat in the back in a booth, there were four of us. I had the eggplant parmesan, the branzino cooked in tomato sauce, pasta with Bolognese, flat bread with that olive oil they put on the table, and a glass of red wine because the person I was with ordered a bottle. He loves Flowers 1999 Sonoma Pinot Noir, it’s his favorite winery. And we had tiramisu.

Monday, Sept. 19
We have a shelf here at Animal called the “Family Meal Shelf.” It’s for any extra food that we have. Like if we’re testing a dish or something, stuff will go there. So we had some chicken breast, and I actually cooked a family meal that day. I made grilled chicken breast sandwiches with lettuce, mayo, and tomato on the brioche roll that we use for the chicken sandwich. We had them left over from the Cart for a Cause event. And then I just grazed around both restaurants. Sliced cucumbers, fried onions, peanuts, par-cooked French fries. Maybe an artichoke. A slice of potato. Tasting bordelaise. I’m eating the oxtail. It’s harder to do that at Son of a Gun, but I was tasting herbs, the fish sauce vinaigrette. Maybe a little hoisin on the back of my hand.

On the way home, we picked up Ghengis Cohen for dinner. I always change up my order. This night I had beef and broccoli, Szechuan green beans, moo shu chicken, and pork fried rice. Just ate that at home. and drank water. I like soda too much, and I used to get carried away. Same with coffee. I’d almost make it an ice cream base, with tons of cream and sugar. It was disgusting. But around two years ago when I got kidney stones, the doc said I had to drink a lot more water, and so now I literally drink water all the time. Pints at a time.

Chef Jon Shook Grazes at Animal and Celebrates Vinny Dotolo’s Impending