LA Magazine has dropped a gigantic deep-dive into all things Jon & Vinny, the seemingly effortless duo behind restaurants like Animal, Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s, Trois Mec, and Trois Familia. It’s a fascinating look at two James Beard winners who have helped create and sustain LA’s restaurant renaissance, and at something like 5,000 words there are plenty of reveals to be had.
Here are the five best takeaways from the all-encompassing new feature.
They always have been a team. Right at the outset of the feature, LA Magazine reveals that Dotolo’s first job in Los Angeles was at Chadwick in Beverly Hills under Ben Ford and Govind Armstrong, and that in his interview he demanded that Shook be hired too — “they were a package deal.”
But there are lots of new players. From the piece: “Their hospitality group, Joint Venture, encompasses seven dining rooms, employs 250 people,” and is perhaps the most popular caterer to an entire generation of actors, producers, musicians, and financial types. It’s easy to see just one of Jon & Vinny’s projects and assume their footprint is rather small, but they are massive.
Their catering kitchen alone cost $2 million. That’s right, the company’s Caramelized Productions catering arm sprawls across some 4,000 square feet of warehouse space in Inglewood, and is responsible for many millions of dollars in annual revenue. There’s an entire team dedicated to crafting menus, sourcing product, and executing events. That means a lot of pizza, of course, but also burgers, vegan food, and anything else the team is asked for. Their previous office setup above Jon & Vinny’s on Fairfax was little more than a fold-out table with laptops on it (“the highest-grossing table in the city”, Shook tells LA Mag).
But that’s not even the start of the money. As it turns out, much of the on-hand cash (especially in the early days) for Shook and Dotolo’s work has come from Benedikt Taschen, the well-known and well-financed art publisher. He helped them open Animal and is still the only outside investor Jon and Vinny have.
The future could be in chains. As for what’s next for Joint Ventures, LA Magazine says that Shook likes to play his cards close to the vest. He’s naturally hesitant to discuss projects publicly, especially those in the works, and won’t confirm any future expansion plans for places like Jon & Vinny’s outside of the inbound Brentwood location. But as the piece notes, it’s hard not to imagine the profitability of putting a Jon & Vinny’s in a lot of other American cities, including Las Vegas. After all, they already make their meatballs for Delta to include on cross-continental business class flights between LA and New York City.
The entire LA Magazine piece truly is worth a read, not only for the candor that Shook and Dotolo offer but for a million other small to medium-sized tidbits. There’s a lot of great detail on the employees themselves (from Courtney Storer to Jonathan Whitener), the company’s backing of younger chefs like Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer, and the pair’s personal relationship outside of their restaurants — not to mention all that recipe development for their half-a-dozen projects around the city.