On Anonymity: Jonathan Gold Takes Off The Mask
So Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic for the L.A. Times, has gone public. Shown his face. Done all the things that a critic does when he (or she) decides that playing the cat-and-mouse game is no longer worth it. He wrote a big piece in this weekend’s paper explaining his decision, saying, among other things:
“My tribe’s tastes include odd seafood, obscure white wines from the bottom of the list and the dodgier bits of the animal. (Barbara Kafka, a great cookbook writer and former restaurant consultant, used to devise what she called “critic bait,” eel terrines or pig-nose dishes that existed solely to be reviewed.) We will never send back a plate of food, but we are quick to point out a corked bottle of wine. If you address us by the name we have reserved under, it will take us a moment to realize you are talking to us. We know how to pronounce mille-feuille. We ask about the provenance of the sea urchin. Our habits are as predictable as those of mating owls.”
And yes, his cover was pretty effectively blown a few years ago when an assistant at the L.A. Weekly (where he was then employed) posted a snap of him celebrating the Pulitzer announcement. I was working as a critic at the time (anonymously) and cringed for him when I saw his mug making the rounds of the internets with lightning speed. And even though the non-anonymous critic seems to be becoming a trend these days, it doesn’t always have to go that way.
I direct you to Trey Popp’s reaction to another famous self-outing—Adam Platt‘s unmasking on the cover of New York magazine. A lot of what he said then still applies today. And his arguing both sides of the “charade” still makes for interesting reading.
The Anonymity Debate [Philly mag]