Those of you familiar with Los Angeles, California know that it’s just as famous for sunshine and beaches as it’s known for sprawling diversity and a multiethnic population. However, unlike the glamorized Hollywood stereotype often portrayed in media, Sundance Film Festival’s featured food documentary, City of Gold, takes us on a revealing journey through the heart and soul of what truly sets LA apart: a rich and intertwined global culture. In theaters March 11th, City of Gold is an intimate look at Pulitzer-Prize winning LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold as he navigates through LA’s lesser known neighborhoods, on the hunt for the most authentic ethnic specialties.
The culinary world needs more critics who highlight exceptional food that isn’t necessarily “fancy”. Food that may never get the opportunity to be Michelin Starred or reviewed in the NY Times. Food that- not for lack of flavor or deliciousness- but rather lack of prestige and visibility, doesn’t get the acclaim it deserves. Gold breaks this food critic archetype and instead exudes as much excitement over finding the best taco truck or strip-mall eatery as he would any upscale restaurant. City of Gold does an insightful job of bringing the audience into the neighborhood gems’ kitchens and livelihoods. What remains clear throughout each narration is that these establishments don’t compromise authenticity for popularity. They cater to their own ethnic communities- rather than the greater general public- while remaining true to their heritages.
Gold and Director Laura Gabbert expertly bring attention to the smaller establishments with owners and chefs of humble beginnings, many of which began with immigration. City of Gold is a surprisingly heartwarming documentary that showcases the success stories of family-run restaurants, mom and pop shops and the relentless passion that drives them. Some of the fantastic restaurants featured include: Antojitos Carmen, Mariscos Jalisco, Jitlada, Earlez Dogs and Meals by Genet. While the audience, of course, gets a behind the scenes look at the how the food is prepared and served, what really makes this film worth seeing is watching firsthand how Gold’s influence and reviews have changed the scope of their businesses and overall lives.
After having the opportunity to attend this special screening of the film at the Museum of Modern Art, the next day I had the unique chance to meet Gold and Gabbert in person at a luncheon at Mission Chinese Food to celebrate the release of City of Gold. Gold and Gabbert are both so very approachable, nice and genuine. Not to mention they each took the time to circulate the restaurant, eating and chatting with each table. Check out the next post for more on our fiery Sichuan luncheon!