Animal Chef Jon Shook: The Passover Interview

Jon Shook (pictured left, with partner Vinny Dotolo) does matzo lasagna like whoa.

Jon Shook is one-half of the duo behind Los Angeles restaurants Animal and Son of a Gun, as well as a soon-to-open Ludo Lefebvre collaboration, Trois Mec. Jon is a great guy. Shook is also a great Jew, which led us to a conversation about his Passover plans on the eve of the birth of his child with actress Shiri Appleby.

Do you have Passover plans?

We do, but because we don't know when the baby is coming, we don't think we are going to be able to participate this year. [Shiri] is actually more religious than I am, but with the kid coming, I think it's important to have that kind of upbringing.

So let's talk about food at Passover...

I'm into some of the weirder stuff, like matzo lasagna. Obviously, most people serve roasted chicken or some kind of brisket. There's not really a lot of thrills with the Passover holiday. You have your matzo ball soup, you get the grated apples. I can't believe I'm drawing a blank. The thing with honey and Manischewitz....

Dude, charoset!

Yes. Charoset. But that shit to me, I can only take two bites. I'm not really craving charoset each year (laughing).

Wait, what about the sandwich, man? It's the brick and mortar. (Edit: as tradition calls, a small sandwich of charoset between two pieces of matzo is made).

That is not delicious by any means. That style of food doesn't really turn me on. But it is a tradition.

Indeed, I agree. OK, putting you on the spot. Is there one Passover dish that you could, feasibly, make delicious?

That lasagna is pretty fucking good, dude. I make tomato sauce. It has vegetables in it and I use the matzo, but I really just hide to matzo in the tomato sauce. And you want to hear something? My 84-year-old great aunt makes this matzo-stuffed veal breast. That shit is bomb. She also does this thing with the gefilte fish juice.

OK, that stuff is disgusting!

Hold on, dude. Hold on. This is super cool. She melts that down and layers it with the matzo and very thinly sliced lemons, and makes a terrine. So, matzo, gefilte fish, lemon. She basically makes a gelée with the gefilte fish It's definitely a distinct flavor and taste, but super cool looking.