City of Gold is a Loving Portrait of LA Culture

City of Gold
Written by Laura Gabbert
Directed by Laura Gabbert
USA, 2015

Among food critics, Jonathan Gold holds a special place of esteem. Gold, food critic for the Los Angeles Times and the first food critic to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, is famous less for his writing than for the kinds of restaurants he chooses to review. He tends to eschew the opulent European-style dining that titillates East Coast critics and instead focuses primarily on smaller restaurants and food trucks with non-European American cuisines. The documentary City of Gold paints a loving portrait of the critic and makes clear that his real fascination is with people and their cultures, not just food.

Gold follows the standard rules for food critics: he books under a fake name, sometimes wears disguises (although nothing more than a hat, in comparison to a colleague who wears a Halloween mask at restaurants), and even has a series of prepaid phones to prevent his number from being passed around among restaurateurs. But even when following those rules, he’s instantly recognizable as soon as he walks in the door. Portly and mustachioed, with long hair and bald spot, he often wears suspenders, sometimes even a bowler hat. Combined with his clunker of a pickup truck, there’s no hiding his identity once he shows up.

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