Editor’s note: Marshall King’s food columns have appeared in three newspapers over the years. Below, King explains his reasons for ending the column known as Dining A La King.
By Marshall V. King
GOSHEN – I’ve said before that I don’t like the phrase “closed for good” when it comes to the end of a restaurant. I don’t always think it’s a good thing.
I’ve also said that one of the ways a restaurant can close poorly is to say “closed for remodeling” and then never open the door again.
So after almost 21 years and around 1,000 Dining A La King columns, I don’t want to do the equivalent of either, but I have to somehow say that I’m closing the door. (There is really just one door here out of my head into words on the page.) I’m closing the door, at least for a time, on a column that I’ve put in front of readers since April 2000.
That spring, Terry Greenberg, managing editor of The Elkhart Truth, asked me to figure out how to start a restaurant column. I was instructed that I wasn’t to be a critic and that was wise at first. Over time, I morphed into someone who rated pies, burgers and burritos, as well as telling the stories of people who took big risks to open restaurants, who stood in hot kitchens making food for us and who sometimes had to shut the doors permanently.
The column led to dinners with readers at local restaurants long before wine dinners were popular. The first one was at Papa Vino’s in Mishawaka with Chef Harry Anderson.
Those dinners then led to travel with readers. I was in Italy reporting on how Paul Cataldo, owner of Antonio’s, and Bruno Cataldo and Donn Yoder of Bruno’s Pizza did in an international pizza competition. We went to Ireland and California twice, as well as several bus trips around the Midwest. (I survived losing my balance and falling backward into a bus window with such force that it cracked it, but fortunately not me, in Traverse City.) Traveling with Paul Cataldo was such fun that I went with him to Las Vegas and watched him compete again.
When my time at The Elkhart Truth ended in 2016 under new ownership, I was fortunate enough to have several outlets reach out and want to keep the column going. Dining A La King was soon appearing in the pages of The South Bend Tribune, Goshen News and online with Flavor 574, though that only lasted a few months. I was flattered and honored to get to keep writing about food in this part of the world. More recently, I started sending the column to email newsletter subscribers via hungrymarshall.substack.com.
In late 2020, the Tribune dropped the column due to budget cuts. It’s a tough time to be in the newspaper business, yet they remain so vital to our democracy and culture.
I have continued to write some columns as I work as director of communications and marketing for the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and writing the column for The Goshen News, where I started my professional newspaper career in 1992.
Over the last several months, I’ve realized that I need a break. I need to be able to focus on the book I’ve been working on the last several years about the life and death of Michael “MJ” Sharp that will be published in spring 2022. I need to set down the column that has been one of the best things to happen in my life.
When you’ve done something for so long and it’s become part of your identity, it feels both risky and scary to voluntarily say, “I’m done. At least for now.” Yet it’s clear to me that I need a break and whatever comes next will likely be different.
I doubt that I’m done writing about food. But honestly, I have come to love our local dining scene and how it has grown and changed over the last 21 years. I’ve gotten to see young chefs grow up and experienced restaurant owners open new concepts. I’ve had so many great meals.
Bearing witness to the changes and being the “food guy” in and around Elkhart County has been a thrill and source of both happiness and joy. The greatest thing any journalist and writer can ask for is for someone to care about what you write. Readers have gifted me with that for a long time and I can’t express enough gratitude. I’m so grateful to them and to the editors and publishers who made it possible. Thank you, all.
I’ll keep eating. I’ll keep writing.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
This article was made available through Hoosier State Press Association.