Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake with Besha Rodell, who has written about food in New York and Atlanta, and last year came to Los Angeles to become the Weekly‘s restaurant critic. They discuss the secret appeal and non-Australian origins of the Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion; her Australian youth, and the friends who insisted she join them at Koala Blue after she came to the States; what counts as authentic Australian cuisine, and the tortured question of “authenticity” in Los Angeles; her concerns with what people really eat; her predecessor Jonathan Gold’s influence on the city’s food culture; the appeal of putting yourself utterly at a restaurant’s mercy; “ego-driven” versus “devotional” cuisine; the strange modern prevalence of kale salads; her preference for odd and uneven dishes versus perfect and derivative ones; how she got to know Los Angeles in the three weeks she had before moving here and then assembling the Weekly‘s 99 Essential Restaurants list; the paradox of more money on the west side and less food there; how far you have to go before a restaurant doesn’t count as “in Los Angeles” anymore — or whether such a distance exists; the spread of this city’s culinary interestingness, and how it compares, culturally, to Atlanta’s divide between “Inside the Perimeter” and “Outside the Perimeter”; how ideally, a restaurant critic would move to a new Los Angeles neighborhood every two months; the advantages of the “bogus” system of star ratings, and why chefs want their stars; the current blowup in food interest, and what the internet has to do with it; how she came up through restaurant culture, and came to appreciate how you can’t be “kind of a cook”; how you can’t understand Los Angeles if you don’t eat much here, and how best to understand it when you do go eating.
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