Russ Parsons

Russ Parsons talks food at one of his favorite Long Beach eateries, Jongewaard's Bake n Broil.

Long Beach’s Wrigley neighborhood holds many secrets, but one of its more famous is starting to get a little more exposure.

That would be Russ Parsons, longtime food editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Parsons retired from the Times on the day before Thanksgiving as part of the newspaper’s buyout process after working there for 26 years.

For most of that time, since 1992, he and his wife Kathy have lived in Wrigley. Now that he isn’t riding the Blue Line to the Times building five days a week, Parsons has begun appearing more often at Long Beach events.

One of those events is this weekend, at a fundraiser organized by Soroptimist International of Long Beach to benefit Meals on Wheels. The afternoon includes lunch, a showing of the movie “Chef” and a question and answer period with Parsons after the movie. All taking place at the Art Theatre on Fourth Street, the event costs $30 a person and starts at 12:30 p.m.

Parsons spent 42 years in journalism, starting in New Mexico. He became a food writer before food shows and columns became popular, and has since written two books, won the James Beard Award and generally became a food superstar.

“I started writing about food in 1982,” Parsons said. “At first, it was, ‘that’s what he wants; let’s humor him.’ Then it started to get more popular.

“I always thought it was a little strange it wasn’t more popular in the past. After all, it’s something we all do three times a day, and we get so much pleasure out of it. Now, if anything, there’s too much.”

In his career, Parsons has become friends with many chefs, but the most popular by far was Julia Child. They first met professionally, and he interviewed her several times. They became personal friends after an encounter at an International Association of Food Writing convention.

“I was on a panel about writing about food, and when I went out there, there was Julia sitting in the first row, looking up at me,” Parsons said. “That was her way. She always wanted to learn. She would ask questions first, then talk. It was a great lesson in how to live a life. She had a great curiosity.”

“Chef” is a movie about a chef who uses a food truck to get his life back on track. Parsons has chronicled the food truck movement in Los Angeles.

“It was an expansion of the taco trucks,” Parson said. “A bunch of young chefs, who found out how hard it is to get the money to start a restaurant, discovered how to start in trucks. The real genius was Roy Choi, with his Kogi — Korean tacos… What he did was embrace social media. He’d tweet out where he was going to be, and there’d be a crowd of people in an empty lot, waiting for him when he arrived.”

Choi now has brick-and-mortar restaurants, and Parsons said “everyone” has a food truck, including Sizzler.

Parsons said he is considering writing another book — “How to Read a French Fry” and “How to Pick a Peach” have both done well — but he’s also enjoying giving back to the community. He has provided dinners and more to charity events, and jumped at the chance to help the Soroptimists and Meals on Wheels.

“The incidence of elder hunger is far too high — higher than most people know,” Parsons said. “Meals on Wheels is their lifeline. You should see the look on their faces when that food comes. I couldn’t help but help.”

To find out if tickets are still available, go to www.Soroptimist-longbeach.org/movie or call (562) 596-6859.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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