Jonathan Gold is the food critic for LA Weekly, a multiple James Beard award winner, and winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He was also recognized this year as a Pulitzer finalist in the same category.
In his own words, Gold talks about food writing’s past and future.
On the evolution of food writing:
What’s changed is the general impression of what food writing is. There are great swathes of the American experience not considered food writing before that are now seen as mainstream.
Like in Los Angeles, for example. You’re reviewing the important places with solid capital backing and publicists, the ones that served food to an affluent set. People would go to LA and write about the cooking and never get outside a five-mile radius of the Beverly Wilshire hotel.
[Now] the idea of cooking expanded to every region from Chinatown and you can’t write about LA without considering the majority Mexican population. And not just one or two token places, but the variety and the range of it.
At the LA Weekly, I write three times a week and we have a blog with a full-time person running it with interviews with chefs and recipes and profiles of farmers. It’s almost like a newspaper within a
LA was always an interesting place for food, and you find some of the most interesting cooking in tiny, cheap places. People are definitely more cost-conscious.
The idea of dropping $100 per person per meal is something not entered into lightly. We’re seeing a downturn in the super high-end places, and that’s fine for me. I’ve always written about both kinds of restaurants, but I’ve concentrated more on the interesting developing worlds — the Latin American places and the chef-driven restaurants.
On writing about food in an online world:
The online food world runs the gamut. Some of it is good because there is so much food information out there. And some of it is less good because there are so many people reporting news that is so little news.
The public has a power they didn’t used to. I’m certainly an expert on a lot of things, but you always have readers who know more than you do, and these days they have a voice.
People are knowledgeable about certain things. You cover a noodle shop and then someone blogs that you think you know noodle shops, but there are 100 you haven’t written about. There is this one guy who is a blogger and his specialty is ramen and he really knows everything about it and little beyond it. So it’s cool, it puts critics in the middle.
The publicists have more power than they used to, because 1) many online writers go to hosted events that critics have been long prohibited from attending, and 2) there is now so much real-time competition for the kind of restaurant-news factlets that used to go unnoticed. Some bloggers are required to post 10 times a day, and there is a real demand for copy.
Here’s what other food writers have to say:
- Ruth Reichl, former editor of “Gourmet” magazine
‘Everybody has always thought they could be a food critic’
- Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, editor-in-chief of “Real Food” and winner of five James Beard awards
‘Being a restaurant critic in Minnesota is relentlessly local’
- Holly Hughes, editor of “Best Food Writing”
‘I love the alternative weeklies; they still devote space to longform writing’
- Miriam Morgan, food editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, winner of the 2011 James Beard award for Best Food section
‘Reporting about food is no different than anything else, it requires knowledge of the beat’
- Craig LaBan, food critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, James Beard award winner
‘You can’t underestimate how the change in technology has changed food writing’
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