Amazon Studios gives $1 million to help Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo feed Los Angeles

Jon & Vinny's chefs Vinny Dotolo, left, and Jon Shook, at their Fairfax restaurant.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Chef-restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the two dudes behind Animal, Son of a Gun and Jon & Vinny’s, will be using their catering business to help local charities feed those in need during the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to a $1-million influx of cash from Amazon Studios.

The money enables Jon & Vinny’s restaurant group to partner with the Los Angeles Mission, No Kid Hungry, Off Their Plate and the Motion Picture & Television Fund, as well as other local restaurants, including Hatchet Hall in Culver City, with more to be announced.

The kitchens will make and deliver the food to be distributed to four charities that serve different populations: school kids and their families, the homeless on skid row, first responders and restaurant workers, and the entertainment industry workforce.

Amazon Studios previously worked with Jon & Vinny’s on its “Dinner and a Movie” series, which replaced traditional film premieres with deliveries that included dinner for two and a bottle of wine, along with meals to nonprofits including No Kid Hungry and the Los Angeles Mission.


After partnering on three of those events, Shook said, Amazon Studios suggested expanding the Los Angeles project to reach a wider audience.

“How do we do something really needle-moving?” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, asked in an interview Thursday. “How do we support the foundations of those businesses?”

Salke, who lives in Los Angeles, knew Dotolo and Shook from her weekly standing reservation at the Brentwood location of Jon & Vinny’s. Channeling support through the chefs and charities was a way to support communities that are hurting and encourage others to join in.

“The food insecurity issue is going to grow over time; it’s going to be a long recovery,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out what’s the next innovative thing to bring food to those in need. Hopefully, this inspires some other leaders.”

“It’s bigger than just writing one check,” said Shook, who added that the project is allowing him to keep his catering staff employed and to rehire some who had been laid off when restaurants closed dine-in services in March. “It took us 15 years to build our restaurants; we had to take them apart in 48 hours. There’s no real end in sight.”

Shook said they’re talking with the Compton Unified School District about feeding its students next.

“It keeps our catering afloat, but it’s more than us,” he said. “It’s the farmers, the maintenance men, the soap guy for the dishwashing machine. It’s supporting our whole industry.” Among the businesses that will participate in the initiative are Peads & Barnett, Premier Meats, DuraClean, Wong Farms, Gjusta Bakery, Thao Farms, Coleman Family Farms, Cadoro Bakery and Tamai Family Farm.

“It breathes life into the food system. You’re oiling the machine,” Dotolo said. “We’re trying to find a silver lining.”