Food by VICE

We Spoke to Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo About Their New Line of Chef-Friendly Vans

Vans has announced it will once again dip its iconic corporate toes into the waters of chef- and restaurant-geared apparel. You don’t have to be a hardcore sneakerhead or Imelda Marcos to tell that they’re pretty fucking badass.

by Alex Swerdloff
Jan 23 2016, 7:00pm

George Foreman may have his grill and Sammy Hagar his tequila, but Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo—the masterminds behind LA's Animal, Son of a Gun, and Jon & Vinny's, among other cutting-edge restaurants—just got their own line of shoes. Kitchen shoes, that is. And you don't have to be a hardcore sneakerhead or Imelda Marcos to tell that they're pretty fucking badass.

A little more than a year after New York chef Tyler Kord personally convinced Vans to create the No. 7 Vans Classic Slip-On—an exclusive variation on their original Classic Slip-On that is geared towards chefs working long hours on the line—Vans has announced it will once again dip its iconic corporate toes into the waters of chef- and restaurant-geared apparel.

READ MORE: Two of LA's Best Chefs Want to Make Airplane Food a Hell of a Lot Better

Vans says the chefs "embody Vans' core values: they are dedicated to creative expression through their culinary craftsmanship, live the DIY ethos, and are lifelong supporters of the brand." Doug Palladini, vice president and general manager of North America for Vans, says, "I could not have asked for a better partnership as we look to meet the needs of kitchen staffs around the world."

Photo courtesy of Vans.

In what may be the ultimate proof that some chefs are now at the helm of not only restaurants but also of lifestyle brands, the shoes will be embellished with artwork from the restaurants. The Jon & Vinny-inspired shoe will have a signature green-and-white tone on the Authentic and Sk8-Hi reissue. The Animal-inspired version will be all-black, and the Son of a Gun sneaker will have a nautical theme.

Photo courtesy of Vans.

This isn't the only brand partnership that Shook and Dotolo have gotten into of late. Last year, the two restaurateurs were named Brand Ambassadors by none other than Tiffany & Co., which was launching a new watch called the CT60. In an effort to appeal to a younger, hipper generation of men, Tiffany reached out to the chefs to help sell some very pricey watches.

Photo courtesy of Vans.

Chefs are now coveted by clothing and lifestyle conglomerates. As we recently reported, Marc Vetri, Philadelphia's chef du jour, sold his empire of restaurants to—of all things—Urban Outfitters.

READ MORE: Why Marc Vetri Sold His Restaurant Empire to Urban Outfitters

What would Mrs. Patmore say? Being stuck in a kitchen for an ungodly number of hours doing backbreaking work has never been more glamorous.

Photo courtesy of Vans.

Jon Shook says he is pretty psyched about the Vans partnership: "This project is a dream come true; both Vin and I grew up wearing and loving Vans. And now there are Vans made for the kitchen? We are truly stoked." We decided to reach out to the guys and speak about some of the finer points of the collaboration.

Photo courtesy of Vans.

MUNCHIES: Can you tell us how your collaboration with Vans came about? Did they reach out to you because of your previous work with Tiffany's? Jon Shook: Not at all. It's an interesting connection though—it actually came through Tyler Kord. Vans asked him who he thought could be the next American chef to get into the Vans-chef-shoe game and he recommended us. Me and Vinny have both worn Vans our entire lives, so it was a no-brainer.

Speaking of Tyler, how closely did you work with him towards the beginning? Did he show you the ropes and explain what his experience with Vans had been like? Shook: He definitely ran us through his experience of working with Vans. He mainly got the relationship started and kept it open to our own interpretation.

Photo courtesy of Vans.

Vans are pretty iconic for being cool, but the majority of shoes designed for the kitchen are pretty damn ugly and uncool. Do you think there is a reason the culinary industry has resigned itself to accepting that status quo? Shook: I think it's just the Europeans having weird shoe taste [laughs].

Dotolo: "What would go with this chef jacket? How about these moccasins?"

Shook: Vans started this project in 2014, so it's amazing that companies have only been thinking about it in this regard for like two years.

Dotolo: I think they're the kitchen shoes of the future for sure. Music, skate, and surf cultures are already so entwined with most professional kitchens.

Shook: I've been wearing Vans in the kitchen long before these came around.

Dotolo: Totally. Working in a kitchen is pretty hard on shoes, so the Vans I used to wear would last me 3 to 6 weeks. These last me way longer.

Can you walk us through how much say or input you had with the various elements of the shoes? Shook: You know, not a ton. The shoes are still in the early stages and they know what they're doing. We tried on a lot of different pairs of shoes and provided feedback on that. We even sent some pairs through the dishwasher to see what would happen. It got to the point that after going back and forth, we've changed it a lot from the last chef. Now we're getting ready to hand off the torch to the next chef.

Photo courtesy of Vans.

It seems like the shoes have gone through a lot of iterations while you were working on them. How long did the whole process take? Shook: Yeah, it was a pretty long time. Dotolo: At least 8 to 9 months. I was wearing the different versions of the shoes for up to a month to test them out. A month in the kitchen is pretty tough.

We've seen a pretty massive increase over the last 10 to 15 years of chefs and the industry as a whole appearing in pop culture. Do you see fashion playing an increasing role in kitchens and restaurants? Shook: I mean, for sure. There are some really stylish chefs. Have you taken a look at Nancy Silverton? Before it was about wearing chef's jackets, but that's been stripped back a lot.

Dotolo: Now it's way more about showing who you are as a person. It has really changed.

Photo courtesy of Vans.

When will the shoes be available to the public? And will the first release be this current iteration? Dotolo: You know, we're not really sure if it will be this iteration or a later one that is released, but they are hoping that they will be released this spring.

Shook: I'm sure if enough people email Vans asking for our version of the shoes, they would release it.

Thanks for speaking with us, guys.

Jon Shook
Vinny Dotolo
Tyler Kord
restaurant industry
chef culture