The New Yorker points its pen at L.A. food writer Jonathan Gold this week, detailing how the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic shapes L.A. through discussions of its traditional, regional cuisines. Gold appeals to a wide spectrum of Angelenos and was given the Crip-ish nickname of “Nervous Cuz” by Snoop and Dre, and also gets compliments from composer Carl Stone, who has named musical pieces for the restaurants Gold turned him on to. Meanwhile, Gold lets everyone know he’s “much better looking” than Mario Batali, who he’s been mistaken for, though he understands the Jonathan Waxman comparison since the chef is “another hairy Californian.”
The South Central-bred Gold struck out on his own as a teen, squatting in the future Beverly Hills homes of Iranian exiles and in the practice rooms of U.C.L.A., where he earned a scholarship to pursue the cello, which was forsaken for the pursuit of food. Today, Gold eats at between 300-500 restaurants a year, often bringing the kids he has with wife Laurie Ochoa, whom he married over a roast pig at Campanile and once had an over-caffeinated freak-out in front of that put him in tears when she ordered tiramisu. The writer uses a credit card in the name of his high school algebra teacher and a special cell-phone to make reservations. “It’s like ‘The Bourne Identity’ in slow motion,” he says.
Gold shares his view of L.A.’s restaurant rating system where “’A’ stands for American Chinese, ‘B’ is Better Chinese, and ‘C’ is Chinese food for Chinese,” a view he sticks to in discussing how regional restaurants vary from city-to-city. “’The difference is that in New York, they’re cooking for us…Here they’re cooking for themselves.’”