On a recent episode of his podcast “Go Fork Yourself,” Andrew Zimmern — host of the Bizarre Foods series — reveals his list of Los Angeles restaurant picks in something less sensational than we've come to expect from the Travel Channel guide to unfamiliar foods around the world. In fact, it's so staid that it's practically Gayot, which in turn makes it a bit, well, bizarre.
Zimmern prefaces his selections with what he's observed about L.A.: It has become a “world-class food and restaurant city” in the past decade, after years of having bad food. Before then, according to Zimmern, we only had Wolfgang Puck, Michel Richard and a handful of decent Mexican places. He credits Michael Voltaggio and Jordan Kahn for bringing a “provocative modernism without beating everyone over the head.” He also points to Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo as well as David Myers and Suzanne Goin as among those who cook “Southern California soul.”
When asked what changed things for the better by co-podcaster Molly Mogren, Zimmern cites a couple of reasons, such as California chefs taking better advantage of regional resources alongside the American culinary renaissance and the cashflow of the entertainment industry. Mogren then asks if one of the reasons might have to do with the increasing acceptance of “ethnic” restaurants, to which Zimmern says not really, as L.A. is not as diverse as, say, New York City. Here he's not entirely wrong as Houston is currently the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area; before that, it was N.Y.C. But Mogren isn't off either.
We can dissect a few points that we disagree with in the episode, but we'll pick one overarching statement instead — and that's in how Zimmern limits the cultural purview to Persian and Asian restaurants as a show of diversity, or lack thereof. While we can't speak to Houston and N.Y.C., L.A.'s diversity reflects less in numbers as much as it is found in the everyday intersections, divergences and in some cases steadfastness that have informed the likes of Roy Choi, Diep Tran, Andre Guerrero, Kevin Bludso and Salvatore Marino, as well as Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu. The growth of L.A.'s “restaurant scene” also has had its local champions to thank, like Evan Kleiman of KCRW's Good Food and Jonathan Gold, who deserves credit for flipping the paradigm of what's worth checking out for many readers. For a while, Gold was the only restaurant critic who paid consistent attention to neighborhoods like those in the San Gabriel Valley.
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