L.A. Chefs Jon and Vinny Spicing Up Delta's Business Class: "Strong Likelihood of Meatballs"

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Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo plan on enlivening the menu with fresh ingredients: "First-class food is often too fancy, too precious. People just want delicious food they can connect with."

"We don't have the menu figured out yet, but there is a strong likelihood of meatballs," says Jon Shook, who with Vinny Dotolo (the chef duo behind L.A.'s Animal and Jon & Vinny's) has partnered with Delta to enliven dining on Delta One premium service from LAX to JFK and Washington, D.C. The collaboration is expected to launch in November with a seasonal winter menu.

Shook and Dotolo's team will prepare the entire menu at a 4,000-square-foot production facility that the duo already owns in Inglewood. The chefs are now beginning a period of research and testing to see how to best adapt their cuisine to a pressurized airplane cabin, where diners lose roughly 30 percent of their palates. "We both fly a lot and have some strong ideas about what will work up there," says Shook. "This will be a learning curve for us, but we're excited about the endeavor."

Delta, which already has successful partnerships in place with celebrity chefs in New York (Danny Meyer of Union Square Cafe fame) and Atlanta (Linton Hopkins, whose empire is anchored by Restaurant Eugene), is clearly excited to bring Shook and Dotolo's distinctively regional cuisine to its Delta One fliers. "We're obviously a global airline but we want to make a strong local statement in an important market like Los Angeles," says Allison Ausband, Delta’s senior vp in-flight service. "The passion they have to make food that is seasonal, locally sourced and captures some essential quality of Los Angeles is a really good fit for us." Ausband adds that conversations about whether the onboard menu will feature one of Shook and Dotolo's restaurants at a time or a medley of several at once are ongoing. 

“This isn’t one of those cases of celebrity chefs just selling their name,” says Dotolo, who says the pair is excited to bring fresh, local ingredients (“like the perfect peaches that are at the Santa Monica farmers market right now”) to 30,000 feet. “We are going to conceive the food, source the food and prepare the food. We think first-class food is often too fancy, too precious — we think people just want to eat delicious food that they can connect with.”

A version of this story first appeared in the June 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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