Eating is the core of anything. Knowing there is a fine French loaf downstairs and enough mozzarella to cause a medical emergency if ingested all at once is a beautiful luxury. It is also the way some are used to living. Gluttony is the big, beefy sin that rides the minds of those sticking salami and fine cheese between freshly baked slices. Pausing work to make sandwich after sandwich, throwing them into that jowl-ready face is one of life’s great treats. City of Gold thinks of that but has responsibility. The late Jonathan Gold is an unsung hero of the culinary scene of a place few will visit and even less will enjoy as richly as the food critic did. He championed an area that was slated for its lack of variety and freshness.
He found it, and City of Gold found him. In a similar vein to that of Life Itself, the work of a unique voice in journalism rises through. Paper plates wafting through the skies on a street that would look nothing out of place. It is in the every day that great experiences and flavours are found, not in the places designed to build them. Under the boot of normality or suffering can come great ingredients and experiences, as City of Gold finds in downtown Los Angeles. Gold is rightly championed as the man who turned the focus away from classic dining structures and into the streets that house great meals. Shuffling along those streets as part of routine means the magic ebbs away, and as City of Gold coasts along the ordinary, it finds fascinating pockets of rich flavour, all helmed by a man driving in a Dodge truck.
Great envy is what City of Gold leaves off with. Anyone who can speak so well of food, of art or of culture, is rich in life and experience. Gold is, well, a gold standard. His writing and his abilities as a food critic are highlighted just as much as the venues he finds himself settling into. That homely feel of an expert explaining, earnestly and openly, where they need to chart and their reason for it, is the heart of City of Gold. Those seemingly staged meetings, those cold moments that documentarian Laura Gabbert springs on, are nice and build up toward the wider point of this documentary. Good food is made by good culture and good culture is formed through good people. For those obsessed with food and the restaurant business, or what goes on far beyond that, there is plenty to be found in City of Gold.
It is almost a formal continuation of the work Anthony Bourdain accomplished with his slate of long-running television programmes. He would explore the dark heart of everywhere that simply should not have good food. In finding the food trucks, fascinating little bits and pieces where the flavours take hold, is one of life’s great experiences. Sunny skies and nice, interesting individuals are frequently showcased. This is just as much a look into the life of Gold as it is to the streets he was formed by and the places he now heads. There is something oddly moving about that. Something unexplainable that requires a need to search out the good work Gold put out there for decades. Food and flavour is universal but Gold convinces that he is one of the few to understand what makes it tick, why people return to it. Not everyone has that talent or touch. City of Gold captures that beautifully.