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Acclaimed LA chef Vinny Dotolo has received attention on a national level for his creative culinary style, as well as the two restaurants he owns with partner and friend Jon Shook. In his Guest DJ set, he talks about music that captures the nautical life of his Florida childhood, his feelings of wanting to conquer the world as a teenager, and the hip hop song that inspires him to stay on top of his game. He co-owns LA restaurants Animal and Son of a Gun.
1. Jimmy Buffett - Son of a Son of a Sailor
2. Bad Religion - I Want to Conquer the World
3. Ben Harper - Amen Omen
4. Tilly and the Wall - Rainbows In the Dark
5. Jay-Z - My 1st Song
Anne Litt: Hi I'm Anne Litt and I'm here with chef Vinny Dotolo who's been profiled in magazines and newspapers around the country along with his partner and friend Jon Shook. His creative culinary style is on display at LA restaurants Animal and Son of a Gun. And I can say, I've personally known you now for almost 8 years since just after we both moved to Los Angeles.
Vinny Dotolo: Yes, yes when I was just catering.
AL: It's great to have you here.
VD: Thanks for having me. It's an honor.
AL: Today we will be playing excerpts of songs he's selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. So Vinny, what did you bring for us today? What do you want to start off with?
VD: I think I really want to start off with something that brings me back to my Florida roots, something that brings me back to my childhood. Jimmy Buffet -- I know it's a little corny for people of my generation, but my grandfather was a big part of my life as a child. He always took me out on his boat and we used to vacation at Longboat Key in Florida and I spent a lot of time with him on the boat, just experiencing the nautical life, and thinking about traveling and seeing the world in many a different ways and…
AL: And that's Jimmy Buffet territory right there.
VD: Yeah exactly. And I think as far as like Jimmy Buffett and this song, "Son of a Son of a Sailor", it was just, you know, it seemed perfect for me and we named our second restaurant Son of a Gun kind of after my grandfather who used to say "son of a gun" all the time. And it just rang so true with me when we were thinking of the name for our seafood restaurant.
Song: Jimmy Buffett -- "Son of a Son of a Sailor"
AL: I love it. That was "Son of a Son of a Sailor" by Jimmy Buffet. Next up, what do ya have?
VD: The next song I have is by Bad Religion. I would say the next phase of my life I, you know, as a teenager, I felt like I wanted to conquer the world and that's why I picked this song. I grew up listening to punk rock and, that was kind of MY music. Probably say between 13 and 16, 17, that was all I listened to. And Bad Religion drew me into so many other bands - The Descendants, Screeching Weasel, so on and so forth
That was what I loved the most out of music then at that point. And, I felt…
AL: And that's a pretty powerful song, the video, everything. I mean "I Want to Conquer the World" of course what it's saying but that's pretty powerful.
VD: And I think as a teenager you question a lot about life and a lot about what other people are telling you is right and what's wrong. And I think that that was something that I felt I constantly did was question things, which got me in a lot of trouble, but I wanted to change people's minds. I felt hearded in high school, and stuff like that, and I think a lot of kids feel that way. And you know, it was something that I always felt I could relate to.
Song: Bad Religion -- "I Want to Conquer the World"
AL: The song is Bad Religion's "I Want to Conquer the World", one of Vinny Dotolo's picks. He's a chef at Son of a Gun and Animal here in Los Angeles. And, you've brought in a really eclectic list of music today.
AL: And talk about this next artist, it's Ben Harper, the song "Amen Omen".
VD: Yeah. Well, I think this is, you know, moving through my life into 18 to 24 years old. I think this song really embodies the spirit of loneliness and heartache and breaking up with someone. Through those years of my life, I had many a girls and loves and things I had in my life, and I felt like when this song came out, it really kind of spoke to me as something that was like…you always have to try to find a place or a way to move on from those relationships, and I felt like this was a really powerful song in that sense.
Song: Ben Harper -- "Amen Omen"
AL: You can't go wrong with Ben Harper - "Amen Omen". You've brought a very jaunty song. I love this song, it's Tilly And the Wall, "Rainbows in the Dark", and you've been sort of taking us on a little bit of a trip of your life…
AL: …Tell me where we are now with this one.
VD: So, you know, I think after all the heartache and the heartbreak and all that stuff that we just talked about, the light at the end of the tunnel, this song for me is really for my wife. We actually heard Tilly And the Wall for the first time on KCRW, and we both loved it immediately -- right when the song came on the radio and we immediately like looked it up on our phones or something and found out who they were.
We went to Portland and we were on our first trip together and, I believe, its where we really kind of fell in love with each other and knew that we could make this work. We had a ton of fun and it was really spontaneous. It was, you know, us being able to travel together, it meant so many things but also Tilly And the Wall was playing at, it's the Bigfoot Lodge I believe, up there, and we had no idea that they were playing there and we went to see them and the show that they put on was absolutely amazing. Their percussion is done by a tap dancer. And, just to see that and to have seen so many live shows in my life, and her as well, it really kind of struck us as being something special and I knew that we were creating something special and, so were they at the same time.
Song: Tilly And the Wall -- "Rainbows in the Dark"
AL: That was Tilly And the Wall, "Rainbows in the Dark". What's your last song?
VD: My last song is by Jay-Z. It's called "My First Song". And…
AL: Your last song is the first song.
VD: Yeah. And I think what he's really trying to, the message he's really trying to get across here is: Be humble. Stay on top of your game. Strike while the iron is hot. Don't forget where you came from. Don't forget how you started this. Treat everything like it's new. And, I really believe in that -- like wholeheartedly I really do.
I walk into the kitchen everyday knowing I can learn something. And I walk in there not even remembering any of those great things you said about me, about magazines and all that stuff, it really like never even comes across my mind. It's truly about creating these memories and creating dishes and food that I’m proud of and, as much as I can, make the people that also participate and cook with us proud of what they do and inspire them. And I think that this song is a very inspirational and motivating song.
Song: Jay-Z -- "My First Song"
AL: Well I do think that's a perfect place to end. Vinny, thank you so much for coming on KCRW's Guest DJ Project.
VD: Thank you for having me. It's an honor.
AL: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to kcrw.com/GuestDJProject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.