When you see a photo of a food covered in gold leaf, say the golden donut or the Douche Burger, does your mouth water? Does gold just sound super appetizing? I get cravings, but I can’t say I’ve ever thought, “huh, I could really go for some gold right now.” I think the reason I’ve never thought this is because gold isn't really a food item.

Gold is the New "High Class" Ingredient

Gold leaf is put on anything from ice cream to pizza to hot chocolate. Many of the dishes popping up with gold leaf are made with some of the finest ingredients in the world. Of course, these fine ingredients like lobster, caviar, and truffles are also some of the most expensive foods in the world. However, these ingredients add complexity to the flavor and texture of a dish. Lobster adds a certain taste of “freshness” alongside its shellfish flavor. Caviar “pops” in the mouth. Truffles add an earthy, almost garlicky taste. 

But what about gold? It seems very lavish and if it can be considered a fine ingredient then it adds something to the dish, right? Wrong.

The Nutritional Value of Gold Leaf

First and foremost, food is meant to keep us alive. Kids all across the United States have the food groups drilled into their minds every day to teach them about a healthy diet. You have to have your grains, your veggies, your fruits, and so on and so forth. Which of the essential food groups does gold fall into? The answer is none of them. You’re not going to get any calories or vitamins from the gold leaf plastered all over these decadent dishes. Gold does not have any nutritional value so it doesn’t really serve a purpose from a health perspective.

In Terms of Taste and Texture

Second of all, eating food should be an enjoyable experience. It should have interesting flavors and textures. It’s pretty important that what we’re eating tastes good and makes us want to keep eating. Those sheets of glittery gold leaf have no flavor or texture. As far as those two parameters go, gold leaf is not bringing anything to the table.

The Real Purpose of Gold Leaf

If gold leaf doesn’t have nutritional value and doesn’t add to the flavor or texture of a dish, then its sole purpose is to be decorative. There are a lot of things used as decoration on food: parsley, sprinkles, candles. The thing about these items though is that you can obtain all of them for a reasonable price and they don’t really affect the overall price of a dish.

The gold leaf being put on “high end” dishes is meant to elevate these dishes to the next level. Many of the foods getting gold leaf slapped on them are already made with really high quality ingredients. These high end ingredients already cost a lot. Gold leaf gives the creators of gold foods another reason to raise the price of the already expensive food the gold leaf is being put on.

Gold leaf can be either cheap or expensive. If a restaurant uses cheap gold leaf, it is throwing a cheap ingredient on top of its very expensive dish in the hopes that it makes the dish look fancier and justifies the price.

On the other hand, a sheet of gold leaf can cost up to $50. If a restaurant is using a more expensive gold leaf, it is spending an unreasonable amount on something that is purely decorative. The food will taste the same whether the gold leaf is on it or not and it will still look delicious. Gold leaf is adding more cost to food without bringing anything of real value to it. It’s a pointless expense.

It's Time to Say Goodbye to Gold Leaf

Gold leaf doesn’t really add anything to food besides potentially raising its cost. The people who buy gold-leafed food end up paying crazy prices (think up to $1,000) for what would already be an expensive food without the gold leaf. The only appeal to the gold donut or the Douche burger is the fact that they are super shiny and glittery, but, personally, I don’t think that is a good enough reason to justify the price.

Food should focus on keeping us alive while tasting great, and it was accomplishing that just fine before gold leaf started to get thrown in the mix.