Oh, Those Animals! Jon Shook Looks Forward to Surfing (and Cooking) in Montauk


According to Jon Shook, the motivation for him and Vinny Dotolo, his co-chef at L.A.’s Animal, to do their upcoming pop-up restaurant at Montauk’s Sole East was pretty simple.

“Both Vinny and me are from Florida, and we grew up surfing,
skateboarding, and hanging out on the beach,” Shook says. “Even though
we live in L.A., we never get to the beach. We had the opportunity
to enjoy ourselves, stay at a nice hotel and cook some good food, so
why not? It’s so cool for us — it’s like, I get to go surfing before
work? OK.

“People are always asking us to come to New York,” he added, “and we have a lot of clients there who go to Montauk.”

Shook and Dotolo won Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs award earlier this year for the gutsy, pork-happy food they serve at their restaurant, which earned a James Beard nomination not long after opening in 2008. They began talking to Sole East’s owner — who happens to be a close friend of Shook’s cousin — shortly after New Year’s about the possibility of doing the pop-up, which is set to operate from August 12-18. “There wasn’t a big contract,” Shook says. “It was just, ‘Go have fun on the beach and cook some cool food.'”

That food, he says, will include five dishes from Animal — think balsamic pork ribs, a pork belly sandwich, crispy hominy, and their signature foie gras loco moco, a calorically ruinous interpretation of the Hawaiian dish of gravy-smothered rice, fried egg, and hamburger. There will also be seafood specials, and half the food on the menu will come from the hotel. “It’s not going to be a huge, monstrous menu,” Shook says.

As to the seemingly inevitable question of whether he and Dotolo want to open a restaurant in the city, Shook says, “I definitely think we’ll open a restaurant in New York at some point in our lives,” but for now, they’re staying put. “I think that as young chefs, the more accomplished you become, the more you’re asked to leave your restaurant,” he muses.

In the meantime, he’s content to eat at our restaurants. His favorites, he says, are “everybody’s favorites”: Lupa for lunch, everything David Chang does, Fatty Crab, Boqueria, Barbuto. And then there’s Corton. “It’s amazing,” he says. “It’s like eating a piece of acid and sitting in a black room with no windows.”