Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times is no ordinary food critic. First, he’s one of the only old-guard journalists who is still spending an inordinate amount of time visiting, reviewing, and analyzing restaurants before he critiques them — even in the ever-changing digital age of journalism. And second, he spends his time in the trenches, devoting himself to finding smaller, authentic ethnic restaurants in Los Angeles that might otherwise be overlooked if it weren’t for him.
In the documentary film City of Gold, distributed by Sundance Selects, Director Laura Gabbert chronicles the life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gold using flashback sequences to show to his humble beginnings as a student of music and art, and how he became the journalist who is admired around the world today. Throughout the film, Gold speaks about how his love and admiration of his city is ever-enduring, but this Los Angeles is not the same one that many others know. Therefore, Gold makes for the perfect subject for a documentary film solely due to the deep-seated passion he has cultivated for the city he calls home.
Gold goes beyond reviewing the glitzy hot spots that attract celebrities and high-society individuals. Instead, he spends time in ethnic and gritty neighborhoods. His inner passion thrives when showcasing local cuisine, such as that of a second generation family hailing from the Yucatán in Mexico, or celebrating the recipes of an Ethiopian mother whose son bought her a restaurant due to her unwavering love of her culture’s cuisine.
Throughout the course of the documentary, you begin to learn more about Gold, his idiosyncrasies, and what makes him tick through different testimonials given by chefs and friends alike. We are also enlightened about his past. Gold, a trained cellist, spent many years writing about the hip-hop and punk music scene, and often comments on hip-hop culture and how it impacts Los Angeles’ unique place in the landscape of immigrants in the U.S. in such a way that feels counterintuitive to what you might expect from Gold. He’s knowledgeable and insightful about music, and speaks of food in a way that is reminiscent of his former career.
I left the theater struck by two overwhelming feelings. The first was that I felt as if I knew Gold, and hope to continually support him in his effort to elevate food criticism and showcase those chefs and restaurants who might not otherwise gain notoriety without the power of his pen. The second was that after countless visits to Los Angeles, I still believe that I don’t know the city at all — but I welcome my next journey to view the city through Gold’s eyes.