OC Weekly editor and longtime food writer Gustavo Arellano has resigned from the popular Southern California alternative newspaper, effective immediately. Arellano is known for his often fiery brand of political journalism, but has also spent years profiling some of greater Los Angeles’s best Mexican and Central American restaurants as a food critic and editor. His book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America is cited as an important historical retelling of the rise of Mexican and Mexican-American food culture in the United States.
Arellano himself announced the sudden departure on Twitter, but refused to divulge any other details about his employment status or possible firing over social media. Instead, he pointed fans and journalists alike to The Tom Leykis Show, a radio call-in program with its own large stable of supporters and detractors that has given Arellano a weekly voice for years.
On the live show, Arellano told Leykis that he had weeks ago been given an ultimatum by OC Weekly ownership to reduce staff by 50%, and when he refused (after trying to offer an alternative plan for growth and profitability) the whole thing went up in smoke. Arellano tendered his resignation, and was walked from the building by security.
Eater reached out to OC Weekly for their version of events, but so far has not heard back. It is worth noting of course that Arellano has not been without controversy in the online space over the years. The 15-year alternative newspaper veteran is known for mixing it up on social media with detractors, fans, politicians, and anyone else, and less than 24 hours ago was suspended by Twitter ostensibly for revealing personal details about another user publicly.
As for what’s next, Arellano said on the Leykis program that he wasn’t sure, but that he did have some other food stories in the works elsewhere. He does not, however, own the trademark to his nationally syndicated weekly column Ask a Mexican — that belongs to the Weekly — so expect the column to go dark at least for the foreseeable future. The OC Weekly for its part has not formally announced any layoffs, and continues to operate. In the interest of full disclosure, Arellano is also the longtime MC of the annual Tacolandia event in Los Angeles (of which Eater editors have in the past participated as judges), and has written for Eater as well.
- Driving the Mexican Mother Road [Eater]