The cat is out of the bag: L.A. Times food critic Jonathan Gold recently made headlines by officially shedding his anonymity. “Officially” being the operative word here—because for many people, seeing JGold’s mug wasn’t a surprise at all.
In his open letter, Gold conceded to the idea that stealth mode was in many ways just a charade; that his cloak wasn’t all that invisible. People waiting in taqueria lines waved at him, while many waiters shook in fear as they poured him glasses of vino. A series of Twitter rants and think-pieces followed, debating whether anonymity was a worthwhile pursuit in the first place.
“I have become adept at pretending not to notice that a restaurant staff is pretending not to notice me noticing them noticing me.” Yeah, talk about one big mind f**k.
For anyone who paid close enough attention, Mr. Gold’s identity has been unmasked countless times over the years, with loads of photos—and even videos—readily available on the web. We hit up veteran L.A.-based food blogger Tony Chen (@sinosoul) to draw a timeline of how it all went down, beginning with the very first leak—further proof that despite Gold’s best intentions, he was someone we knew all along.
Unmasking JGold: A Timeline
For years after the Internet was invented, Jonathan Gold took great care to shield his identity as LA Weekly’s restaurant critic. All of his efforts fell by the wayside the moment he and his wife heard the news of his Pulitzer win in 2007. The newspaper, proud of its prodigal son (yanked from L.A. Times a few years prior), published various photos of Mr. Gold celebrating with a monstrous glass of champagne. Ooops. Anonymity, bye bye. The next day, the paper nuked majority of the photos, but one key photo remained:
Photo: LA Weekly/Rena Kosnett
O hai there Jonathan! That was 8 years ago.
Pulitzer itself also offered a “subtle” photo:
For a year, every photo published of Jonathan Gold involved his giant Pulitzer wine glass. And then things changed in 2008. JGold went the full monty by partnering with Zocalo Public Square in a series of speaking engagements that lasted two years, often appearing in packed auditoriums:
Photo: OC Weekly
Including this video from 2009 (see #5).
Things picked up steam, especially in 2010:
He also made an appearance at a Los Angeles Public Library event:
Shortly after, a documentary captured JGold philosophizing about the merits of tacos:
During all this, LA Weekly expanded its business into event planning, and began employing Mr. Gold as a “brand”. The first “Gold Standard” food tasting happened in 2007 and continued until 2012:
Photo: Huffington Post
Mr. Gold chatted with Grub Street earlier this week and confirmed the “anonymous” front page story for the L.A. Times had been planned for months—and was not solely driven by the movie. All this begs the question: Why did the paper bother with the piece? Why not just let it go? If Gabbert’s movie was announced in December 2012, why didn’t the Times just announce the policy change effective immediately?
Meanwhile, in addition to fan-snapped selfies at public events, restaurateurs and business owners had their own covert operation, taking photos and trading tips about sightings. Take, for instance, this shot from Chengdu Taste.
Whether you’re pleasantly surprised or jaded by the reveal, one thing is certain: No one can pull off suspenders like JGold. Big ups.