Good as Gold
By Robyn Stark
Published Jan 14, 2015 8:00 AM
Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold '82 makes his film debut at the Sundance Festival.
Only the most distinguished journalist could forge a career out of “the professional eating of tacos” as he puts it, and then parlay that career into a film deal. But then, Jonathan Gold ’82, the Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic for the L.A. Times, is anything but ordinary. Now he is making his film debut as the subject of City of Gold, a documentary premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
The self-proclaimed Belly of Los Angeles rose to prominence in the early 1990s, when most articles about food were reviews of haughty five-star restaurants or cholesterol-lowering meals. Gold pioneered ethnic food reviews and wrote about eateries that other critics wouldn’t step foot in. For decades, he captivated Angelenos with his eloquent culinary descriptions and genuine passion for unique dishes such as Oaxacan grasshopper soup. Sundance's description of the critic’s role in the new film, says, “[Gold] casts his light upon a vibrant and growing cultural movement in which he plays the dual roles of high-low priest and culinary geographer of his beloved Los Angeles." City of Gold also features a few L.A. chefs, food bloggers, restaurateurs and steaming bowls of fish bladder soup.
The film’s director Laura Gabbert TFT ’97, MFA ’04, who gained recognition at the 2009 Sundance festival with her co-directed film No Impact Man, pitched Gold on the concept of the documentary a few years ago. “I loved Laura’s film Sunset Story,” Gold says. “So when she approached me about making a film using me as a prism through which to look at food as a prism looking at Los Angeles, it sounded like a good idea. And you wouldn't believe how fetching I look in a burqa." Gabbert’s previous documentary Sunset Story, a pocket-size production about two elderly radicals now living in a nursing home in Koreaatown, won awards at the Tribeca, Los Angeles, and Miami film festivals.