City of Gold (2015)

I discovered City of Gold while watching the first episode of Cooking with Jeff, a YouTube cooking show hosted by Jeff Goldblum, as the guest was Jonathan Gold, the first Pulitzer-winning food critic who passed away a month ago. Being quite a foodie myself, I had to check it out. 

Laura Gabber's documentary follows Jonathan Gold around the city of Los Angeles, specifically in its ethnic enclaves where his culinary/food journey started many years ago.

And that's the focus of a part of the documentary, the city of Los Angeles, its diversity and its beauty. Because of movies and TV series, we, and by that I mean who has never been to L.A. or has been but only as a tourist for a short period of time, are used to see Los Angeles as a vapid, sterile, white and rich place.

Gold, having explored L.A. since the mid-1980s, shows us a completely different city, a melting pot of cultures made of ethnic restaurants and food trucks and pretty unique and sometimes horrible things to eat. These are not the fancy, starred restaurants critics usually visit and review, these are the places you visit if you want to learn something about other people's cultures and worlds. These are the places Gold used to visit and review and love because they allowed him to connect with people of different ethnicities.

The other part of City of Gold obviously focuses on Jonathan Gold himself, and he makes for a pretty interesting subject as he wasn't only a food critic for the L.A. Times, but a man of the streets who kind of changed the food critic world. Other than visiting small and ethnic restaurants and food trucks rather than fancy French places as I mentioned above, he gave up the illusion of anonymity which the documentary uses to explore the role of anonymity for modern critic; and shows us the importance and value of real critics in a day where everyone pretends to be an expert thanks to the internet. Unlike amateurs (and I fall in this category), real critics bring experience and knowledge to a topic and therefore they deliver more than just words.

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We also learn about Gold's upbringing in a family of activists and intellectuals; that he used to play the cello and he was pretty good at it; that he started his career writing about classical music then punk and hip-hop; we learn about his devotion to his wife and kids; and his struggles with and meeting deadlines.

Because of all the topics addressed and the way they are put together, City of Gold feels disjointed and fragmented but in spite of that, it still is a beautiful love letter to the city of Los Angeles and an ode to food that it's worth checking out even if you are not a foodie.

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