Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold used a keynote speech at conference for the CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California to attack Rick Bayless and the newly opened Red O. Bayless consulted on the menu for the L.A. restaurant, and made a few comments about how different the restaurant would be for L.A. Gold took offense, calling him a merely “good” chef who knew nothing about the scene. Like he did after those White House tweeting accusations, Bayless immediately sprung to action and called for an apology: “Thought a Pulitzer meant you checked facts. Sneering at me for something I never said is either mean or sloppy. I’m offended.” Bayless claims his comments were taken out of context.
I never said I was going to introduce Southern California to “authentic” Mexican cuisine. I said I was going to bring the flavors of Frontera Grill to Los Angeles. Which is completely true. I guess getting a Pulitzer doesn’t mean your [sic] beholden to truth. But I’m sure it made for a “fun” evening for all gathered there. Such is the state of modern journalism.
But it does appear that Bayless hinted that Red O would introduce L.A. to “authentic” central and southern Mexican flavors. In an interview with Feast, Bayless said:
Mexican food in Southern California is really native to here. It has influences from places like the Northern part of Mexico or from Guadalajara, but you don’t really find the rich moles, and a lot of the complexity that you sometimes find in the food of Oaxaca or Veracruz, showing up in the Mexican food of Southern California. Here in Southern California there’s a bit more of a focus on what I would call the street food flavors. So it’s more about the tacos and enchiladas, and of course, burritos, which most people point to L.A. as the place where burritos were actually invented.
Gold pointed out the many of the items on Red O’s menu can already be found in L.A. But then he celebrated the “wabby” burritos, the baked nachos, and the city’s own tacos, which seem to be exact point Bayless was making.
We’ll never know for sure, but this wouldn’t be the first time that Gold mixed up the facts. Earlier this summer, Gold accused Alan Richman of “eating kung pao chicken in Hong Kong-style cafés.” Richman denied the charge: “I think you should start a new section: Jonathan Gold’s Top Ten Fictional Food and Drink.” And just last week, Gold was called out for claiming that L.A.’s Burger Kitchen served Pat LaFrieda ‘Black Label’ beef, which a spokesmen from Pat LaFrieda said was absolutely untrue.
Our editor in L.A. also pointed out that Gold never writes a negative review about a local place, but has no problem taking down chefs that come from elsewhere. Recently Gold panned the Santa Monica Place, which was imported mostly from San Francisco.