‘City of Gold’ shines through

By Dorany Pineda

Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold fell into food writing by accident.

After graduating from UCLA and landing a job as a proofreader, he found himself bored with his work and decided one day that he would eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard.

Within a year, he trekked, discovered and savored over 15 miles worth of food.

Thus emerged who has now become Los Angeles’ most beloved, trusted and feared food writer and the inspiration for director Laura Gabbert’s documentary, “City of Gold.”

Gold is the Los Angeles Time’s restaurant critic who is, more accurately, a cultural critic, commentator and culinary cartographer of the grand multicultural city that is Los Angeles.

“City of Gold,” Gabbert’s insightful documentary, follows Gold in his green pickup truck through the glittering diverse mosaic of the city, visiting everything from upscale Italian restaurants to hot dog stands, pho parlors, taco trucks, strip-mall eateries and a slew of other fancy and unassuming food joints, all for the joy of discovery.

But his appetite and his heart hunger the most for the undiscovered and typically overlooked restaurants, mainly those in working-class communities where immigrants who open up eateries do it solely to feed and please themselves and their neighbors.

This is what Gold believes sets Los Angeles apart from the rest of the country’s Little Tokyos, Koreatowns and Little Ethiopias, and what he terms an “anti-melting pot.”

He emphasizes repeatedly throughout the film that it is the immigrant populations that have defined and elevated this vibrant and complex city.

Gold, as the documentary shows, has played a significant role in pulling neglected restaurants out from the dark, cold corners of the city and onto the tabletop.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, “Meals by Genet,” an Ethiopian restaurant owned and led by Genet Agonafer, came to a depressing standstill.

But after several visits and a favorable review by Gold, the restaurant was bustling with so many customers that “I could not cook the doro wat fast enough,” Agonafer said.

“City of Gold” is as much about Los Angeles as it is about the influence of  Gold and his connection to its versatile food and people.

Gabbert’s documentary shows the genuine curiosity and passion that comes from seeing Gold pointing out his favorite restaurants as he drives in his pickup truck or eats his favorite Oaxacan mole.

It paints an affectionate portrait of what Gold describes as a “huge number of cultures that live in this city who come together in this beautiful and haphazard fashion,” as experienced through the eyes and tastebuds of a man trying to understand it all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *