Apart from the white aprons, there’s little to suggest Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are classically trained chefs and not just a couple of long-haired skaters. Dressed in inside-out T-shirts, baggy shorts and sneakers, the guys lug crates of glasses into the Venice Beach, Calif., loft where they’re catering a dinner party for 20. “Typically most people with restaurant training would wear chef’s jackets,” admits Shook, 26. “But we want to bring a casual atmosphere with really good food.”
Their creative menus, such as this evening’s Moroccan-themed meal for hostesses Alexandra Balahoutis and Rebecca Bloom, have caught the attention of the Hollywood crowd. Now foodies across the country can get a taste of the delicious drama when their new show, “2 Dudes Catering,” premieres today on the Food Network.
While attending the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale’s School of Culinary Arts in Florida, Shook and Dotolo landed their first job, with Michelle Bernstein at The Strand in South Beach. From there they worked for Mark Militello at Mark’s, then joined Ray Roach, who mentored them at his Wildflower Restaurant in The Lodge at Vail in Colorado. Eager to get back to the coast, Shook and Dotolo made their way to Ben Ford and Govind Armstrong’s Chadwick in Beverly Hills. When Chadwick’s closed, Shook and Dotolo collected catering clients through word of mouth and founded Carmelized Productions in 2004.
“Most catering companies come with everything premade and basically reheat it on site,” says Shook while arranging tiny pieces of squab breast on small plates lined with apricot emulsion. “We do it all here. And we wash dishes.”
The added manual labor doesn’t seem to faze these guys, nor does the camera crew hovering around them. “We’re used to being filmed,” Shook explains. “We challenged Cat Cora on ‘Iron Chef America’ a couple of years ago and a year later Food Network called and asked if we’d like to do our own show.”
The series distills the partners’ schedule down to a couple of parties at a time, but the duo can be juggling up to five different jobs at once. Dotolo, the more introverted of the two, concentrates on creating the menus, while Shook handles the business.
This story first appeared in the October 16, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
While there is intense competition within the catering scene in Los Angeles, Shook says house parties beat the ordinary weddings or bar mitzvahs. “Typically people here want to show off their art or their views, so it’s pretty cool,” he says.
Soon the chefs will bring their talents back to the public when they open their own restaurant next spring on Fairfax Avenue, next to famed Canter’s Deli. The eatery’s menu will be seafood-heavy, inspired by their native Florida.
Don’t expect much else to change about the laid-back dudes, though, despite their growing visibility. “Up until now, I just gave people my cell phone number,” says Shook. “Now we’ll have to go corporate and get business cards.”