A meal comprised of blistered zucchini with fish so fresh it had jumped out of the ocean to swim with the garlic sauce. A silky dish that steamrolled the senses.
These are two of the ways that food critic Jonathan Gold described meals during the 2011 Johnston Lecture at the University of Oregon. Gold is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer from LA. He has written for Gourmet and currently writes for the LA Weekly. He is a published author and travels the world, eating at 300 to 500 different restaurants each year.
Gold was not the best speaker and jumped from topic to topic – what people had to say about Eugene’s Marché, eating in the countryside in Italy, his accidental review of the Olive Garden. His stories were humorous but many barely grazed the topic of the lecture.
Gold was really there to discuss what it means to be a professional food critic in an age where social media is conquering the world. Today, anybody can review a restaurant but what makes them a legitimate critic?
Gold explained that although anybody can have an opinion, a true food critic is a filter, an evaluator and an extrapolator. He explained that describing every dish as “awesome” is not teaching the audience anything.
Instead he said that a critic has to have experience and he proved his own experience in how he spoke so vividly talked about food. His descriptions of the meals took me away from his awkward speech he was reading off his phone. It made my stomach grumble and made me yearn for Italian food.
To me, it didn’t matter that he was terrible at public speaking. What mattered was that he could speak about food and in that, Gold showed me what it means to be a true food critic.