Saturday, January 24, 2015

Los Angeles Times Stops Pretending We Don't Know What Jonathan Gold Looks Like


I always thought it was kind of charming that the Los Angeles Times kept up the practice of hiding superstar food critic Jonathan Gold's face in the newspaper and in all of its marketing. After all, anyone who cares about food criticism or Jonathan Gold knows exactly what he looks like. As Gold became a well-known name, his face was everywhere.

Now, the LA Times is giving up the practice. I'll miss the Jonathan Gold silhouettes, but he says it's time to give up the ghost:

I regularly decline magazine profiles, corporate speaking gigs and reality show appearances. I once walked backward from a lectern after winning an award because I was afraid of being photographed. I have OpenTable accounts under many different names, a habit of paying bills — even large ones — in cash and a burner phone account, all in an attempt to keep my identity a secret from the chefs and staffs of restaurants I have reviewed.

But my identity is not secret.

I have been charmed into posing for a thousand food-festival selfies. A hundred waiters know my name. I have been called out in taquería lines from Pacoima to Bell Gardens. At chic restaurants, chefs nervously avoid my gaze. When he spotted me eating dinner, a Las Vegas maître d' once physically moved the table at which I was sitting from its cozy niche behind a pillar to a more glamorous spot in the middle of the room. I have become adept at pretending not to notice that a restaurant staff is pretending not to notice me noticing them noticing me.

Any real anonymity I may have once had ended in 2007 when an assistant at a publication I used to work for accidentally posted a photograph to the paper's website. The pretense of anonymity ends today.

I believe he's referring to this photo (below), taken at an LA Weekly toast to celebrate Gold's big Pulitzer Prize win:


Let's face it, Gold has such a distinct look that I don't know how he ever escaped notice when he ate at restaurants. But I don't think it impacted his reviews one bit. Now that he's free of the facade, I wonder if we'll see more JGold on TV and elsewhere.

The timing of the announcement comes as Laura Gabbert's L.A. food documentary, "City of Gold," premieres at Sundance. It also comes, Gold writes, as "the kabuki of the pose is a distraction." I can't wait to see "City of Gold," and congrats to Jonathan Gold for finally being free!

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