As a restaurant critic, Jay Weston, 82, spends most nights eating at some of L.A.’s hottest restaurants – his favorite is friend Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. But Weston wasn’t always an expert on the local restaurant scene. He began his career as a publicist in New York and then began producing films, notably 1972’s “Lady Sings the Blues.” Weston’s third career as a restaurant critic grew from his efforts to save a Chinese food restaurant from closing in the early 1980s. At the time, he wrote a letter to some of his movie industry friends and told them to come to the eatery, which he said served some of the best Chinese food in town. That effort turned him into something of a go-to guy for restaurant suggestions among his entertainment industry pals, so he decided to make a business out of it and launched Jay Weston’s Restaurant Newsletter. These days, the thrice-divorced Weston publishes the newsletter while continuing his producing efforts. Weston recently sat down with the Business Journal at his Beverly Hills home office and discussed how he got Al Pacino into “The Godfather,” the making of “Lady Sings the Blues” and the squirrel monkeys he used to bring to the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Question: What best describes you?
Answer: Food, femme and film. I love food, I love beautiful women and I love making movies.
How did you go from making movies to writing about restaurants?
In 1981, my then-wife and I went to the Beverly Center to see a movie and there was a Chinese restaurant called Hop Woo. It was great Chinese food and I’m a Chinese food addict. So I wrote a letter to 100 friends such as Ray Stark saying you have to help me keep this restaurant alive.
The idea of a newsletter about restaurants grew from there?
Then people started calling and saying where else should I be going to eat and I wrote another letter, three pages, to the same list. Suddenly, I started getting people saying, “Can I subscribe to your newsletter?” I said, “You can.” I started sending out a newsletter and now it goes to almost 35,000 people, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Jeff Katzenberg. It goes to celebrities, doctors, lawyers and foodies.
What’s your restaurant review process like?
I eat out four nights a week. I have a review partner and we order the whole menu and lots of forks, and we taste the food and talk about it, and I write the review. I do everything from burger joints to Wolfgang Puck’s WP24.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.