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Elmer Dills, 1926-2008

Elmer Dills, longtime KABC-TV food critic, died yesterday in Pasadena at the age of eighty-two:


Dills, who was at his most popular in a time when Perino's was L.A.'s idea of haute cuisine, was the Jonathan Gold of an earlier generation. He may have lacked Gold's authority and sense of adventure, but he was one of the very first in southern California to point out that good food didn't have to mean linen tablecloths and expensive tabs.

"Now they fly these crab in live from Alaska every weekend. You know, in about 10 or 15 minutes, this little fellow's going to be on my plate for dinner. Wow!" -- Elmer Dills

RIP, Elmer.

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  1. I just caught the news on KPCC. He was definitely a pioneer to the masses in LA. I remember trying places like Chinois on Main and Casablanca in Venice decades ago on his rec... he proclaimed Casablanca as something to the affect of, "true Mexican haute cuisine..."

    Godspeed, my friend...

    1. Aaah.

      I have fond memories of waiting with my Grama, to watch Elmer Dill's food commmentary. The weekends always revolved around watching Julia Child, The Galloping Gourmet, Great Chefs of:, and that Cajun-Cook guy, and Elmer Dills.
      I guess I was a foodie-in-training since I was a tot.
      Elmer Dills was a part of the beginning.
      Kinda like the Huell Howser of food.

      1. Yeah, I liked his shows too. I liked the radio show a lot. I see his son Peter has a food program on a local PBS channel but it's nothing like his father.

        1. I came to L.A. in the mid-80s -- remember listening to Elmer Dills on KABC radio on weekend afternoons, after a time paired with Merrill Schindler. Also saw some of his reviews on KABC-TV. Enjoyed him a lot, and gained an easy exposure to a lot of SoCal restaurants before the day of the internet. He had a certain style, and I was a fan, despite some of his quirks and mannerisms. He exhibited intelligence and appeared to be a gentleman. I can't really say he will be missed, since the age of Chowhound and blogs along with his own illnesses caused his influence to fade, but he helped establish a genre and his contributions will be appreciated.

          1. I didn't know he was that old. I remember when he reviewed King Taco as a kid and thinking I want to go there. I don't recall his radio show but do remember him on TV.

            1. I remember Elmer real well. He used to frequent the restaurant where I worked often and was very friendly with the wait staff who used to discuss all sorts of food related topics with him. We often disagreed but he was a good sport and we always had a good time. Many of the waiters who worked on La Cienega (LA's restaurant row) in the 70's used to meet after work at the Beefeater Inn. Those were the days, my friend. Thanks for the memories, Elmer.

              1 Reply
              1. re: P Macias

                Back in the late Seventies or early Eighties, I took out-of-town visitors to a very nice place -- name now forgotten -- on La Cienega, following an Elmer Dills recommendation from KABC (radio, I believe). I remember thinking how sophisticated I was to know where people like Elmer Dills ate.

                Rest in peace, old friend. A lot of all this is about you and not just our lost youth.

              2. I used to listen to him when I lived in LA in the late 70s/early 80s. Every Sunday, I'd make a big dinner for (then) hubby and me, while listening to his show. What was so wonderful was that he was willing to go out beyond the immediate LA basin, into areas I would considered--Whittier, Mayflower, La Habra, wherever--to review and find great food. And if you needed a recommendation for that "special" place in those nabes, he'd know where you should go. When I moved up to the Bay Area in 1984, I missed listening to him as much as I did everything else I left behind.

                Rest in peace indeed.

                1. I remember watching Elmer Dills on Channel 7 when I was a kid. I think he might have been my first exposure to any kind of food journalism, and it was probably the first place I ever heard the word "corkage." Calling him "the Jonathan Gold of an earlier generation" is definitely apt.

                  1. Elmer had come of his love for food during his 20 years as an officer of the CIA (and we aren't talking the Culinary Inst. of America) where he traveled extensively through Europe and the Middle East. Interesting the Julia Child had her service in the OSS (CIA's parent org.) discussed here not too long ago. Maybe this is why the FN has their "The Secret Life of" series? ;-D

                    1. Elmer Dills was such a, pardon the pun, "staple" at ABC. He always made the food sound so delicious and I think he opened up so many people to different kinds of foods.

                      1. Long before we had Chow or Food Network we had Elmer Dills. Also, thanks to KABC for showcasing his talent. You will be missed. R.I.P., Mr. Dills.

                        1. Excellent obit, Maxzook. I was always fond of Dills' friendly and inclusive style of reviewing. I can imagine an invited dinner at Dill's table would be enjoyable and fun. I can't say the same for other local restaurant critics.

                          1. He was a gentleman, and those visits to restaurants for KABC food reviews were the beginnings of food porn on TV.