Jonathan Gold’s City Shines

Photo: Goro Toshima / Courtesy of Sundance Selects
Photo: Goro Toshima / Courtesy of Sundance Selects

Last night I attended a screening of CITY OF GOLD – a film by Laura Gabbert about the life of Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. It’s a beautiful love story of a man and his city.

What I learned in the movie is that behind every brilliant man is a talented, loving and supportive family. His wife is Laurie Ochoa, editor of the Los Angeles Times Arts and Entertainment. We see her and their two children interacting with Gold throughout the film.

As a restaurant critic for a smaller Los Angeles newspaper, The Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News (inserted into the Los Angeles Times every Thursday, and delivered to subscribers from Hancock Park to Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills to the Wilshire Corridor) I was eager to watch this movie.

Every Saturday morning I separate the Los Angeles Times to find the Saturday section to read Gold’s latest culinary adventure on the front page. He writes descriptive prose that leaves me wanting more, and many times typing an OpenTable reservation afterwards. Readers want to experience the sensory wonders of each dish he has enjoyed.

The movie opens with Gold gushing about Guerrilla Tacos. Two men created one of Gold’s favorite tacos back in 2012. One of the owners is Wesley Avila, who quit his job as a fork lift operator and went to culinary school. His first job was working with Walter Manske. He also studied at Le Centre de Formation de Alain Ducasse in Paris, France.

In the movie, Gold shares that he became a food writer by accident. His career started as a proofreader at LA Weekly after graduating from UCLA as a music major. He met Ochoa while she was at LA Weekly as the Editor-in-Chief. After their first date, Gold was smitten and sent her a dozen roses. Soon he wrote about the LA music scene, and later the culinary landscape in Los Angeles.

His passion for food began enjoying various dishes at Junior’s Deli on Westwood Blvd. While a student at UCLA, he worked for Steven Speilberg’s mother, Leah Adler, in her upscale Kosher restaurant Milky Way, located in the Jewish section of Pico Blvd. He developed a fascination in discovering every restaurant on the street from mid-city to Santa Monica.

Gold believes the fault lines of Los Angeles are where you find beautiful things about the city. He is an adventurous eater exploring tiny family owned restaurants in strip malls in Boyle Heights, East Hollywood, Thai Town and Koreatown. He tries spicy Thai plates at Jitlada, savory Ethiopian cuisine at Meals by Genet and exotic Sichuan specialities at Chengdu Taste. When Jonathan Gold writes a stellar review, the lines are longer, the phones ring more, and the kitchen is busy.

The movie follows a man enamored with his older pick-up truck, cruising through the streets of Los Angeles taking viewers on a field trip through a big city filled with fascinating and talented people. LA has more Koreans than any place outside of Korea. There are more Japanese than anywhere outside Japan, more Armenians, more Salvadorans and more Mexicans. All of these wonderful people create a cooking culture that is like no other in the world.

After seeing the movie, I have a new appreciation of Gold as a writer. I can picture him with a MacBook Pro on his lap staring into the screen, with his hands on the keyboard, he taps out the nuances of flavor profiles and compositions that leave his readers salivating.

You too can see a screening of  ‘City of Gold’ with L.A. Times columnist Jonathan Gold. He will be at the Wine Bar at the Landmark Theaters Westside Pavilion on March 14 with a reception at 6 p.m. Money raised for the event will go to the nonprofit Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Los Angeles. C-CAP Los Angeles provides food service career opportunities and culinary arts education for underserved youth.

Gold and the film’s director Laura Gabbert partnered with C-CAP Los Angeles to raise awareness and funding.

At the reception there will be tastings from The Wine Exchange and beer from El Segundo Brewery. Some of Gold’s favorite foods will be served, including sliders from West Coast Prime Meats and pork tostadas from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill. Crudités and fruit from Melissa’s Produce, and an oyster bar, courtesy of Michael Cimarusti’s new Cape Seafood and Provisions. Spago desserts will be on display to enjoy before the screening.

The movie screens at 7:30 p.m. with gourmet popcorn by chef Sherry Yard. After the film, KCRW Good Food’s Evan Kleiman will moderate a question and answer session with Gold and Gabbert.

The venue is at 10850 West Pico Blvd. Tickets are $101 and can be purchased by visiting Call (213)542-1941 for more information.

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