Bruce David Colen, 81; eloquent L.A. restaurant writer

Times Staff Writer

Bruce David Colen, who reviewed restaurants for Los Angeles magazine from 1974 to 1995, chronicling an era of emerging chefs and the city’s growing culinary influence, has died. He was 81.

Colen, of Sherman Oaks, died Tuesday of emphysema at Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles, said his wife, Jane Summer.

“Bruce was an elegant and eloquent writer,” Barbara Fairchild, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine, said in a statement. He “covered the L.A. restaurant scene during a time of great upheaval and constant change.”

Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, called Colen “a man of great style, a man with a great pen.


“He was the storyteller that made us feel and sense that restaurants were theaters,” Selvaggio said in a statement.

Colen traced Angelenos’ fixation with trendy restaurants to Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, the Chicago Tribune reported in 1992.

“They started going to La Scala and a couple of other places and soon everybody was,” Colen said. “They moved on and so did everybody else.”

The son of a Zenith television salesman, Colen was born Jan. 1, 1925, in New York City.


After earning a degree in philosophy from Harvard University, Colen worked in publishing in New York before moving to Los Angeles to be a story editor at CBS. Later, he worked in programming for Universal Studios and MGM, his wife said.

For more than 40 years, he was married to Eszter Haraszty, a Hungarian-born designer known for the Iceland poppy motif she replicated on textiles, ceramics and stained glass. She died in 1994.

“He adored her. I married Bruce and Eszter. His entire raison d’etre until his death was her work and seeing it honored,” said Summer, who wed Colen in 1996. Colen is also survived by a sister in New York.

With Kristine Pietersma, Colen had completed a recently published book celebrating Haraszty’s art called “A Colorful Woman” (LostArt Productions).


In an earlier book, “Meet Me in the Doghouse” (1973), Colen revealed a madcap side to life with Haraszty, writing about the 14 Great Danes they lived with in the Hollywood Hills.