Friends and admirers continued to flood social media overnight with tributes and remembrances of Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, the only person to win a Pulitzer Prize for food criticism.
Gold died Saturday at St. Vincent Medical Center just weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Widely praised as one of the greatest food writers of his generation, Gold was credited with helping far-flung Angelenos better understand their city and the myriad cuisines it serves up daily.
“In more than a thousand reviews published since the 1980s, Mr. Gold chronicled his city’s pupuserias, bistros, diners, nomadic taco trucks, soot- caked outdoor rib and brisket smokers, sweaty indoor xiao long bao steamers, postmodern pizzerias, vintage delicatessens, strictly omakase sushi-yas, Roman gelaterias, Korean porridge parlors, Lanzhou hand-pulled noodle vendors, Iranian tongue-sandwich shops, vegan hot dog griddles, cloistered French- leaning hyper-seasonal tasting counters and wood-paneled Hollywood grills with chicken potpie and martinis on every other table,” the New York Times said in its appreciation.
“Unlike some critics, Mr. Gold never saw expensive, rarefied restaurants as the peak of the terrain he surveyed, although he reviewed his share of them,” the New York Times continued. “Shiki Beverly Hills, Noma and Alinea all took turns under his critical loupe. He was in his element, though, when he championed small, family-run establishments where publicists and wine lists were unheard-of and English was often a second language, if it was spoken at all.”
Like so many, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the new owner of the Los Angeles Times, took to Twitter to share his thoughts on Gold’s passing.
“Jonathan Gold was such a beautiful human being with such a dry wit, ” Soon-Shiong wrote. “His love of food and `trying to get people less afraid of their neighbors” speaks everything about him. In the too short time we got to know him, we fell in love with his humanity. Loss to L.A. is immeasurable.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti added a popular profile image of Gold to his thoughts.
“There will never be another like Jonathan Gold, who will forever be our brilliant, indispensable guide through the culinary paradise that is Los Angeles,” Garcetti wrote.
For many, Gold’s sudden death hit the “foodie” community especially hard coming just over a month after the June 8 death of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who charted a similar path along varied culinary byways.
“I have never been sadder,” former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl said of her former writer. “Jonathan Gold is gone.”
The son of a probation officer and a high school librarian, Gold studied art and music at UCLA and held a number of jobs before landing a writing gig with the L.A. Weekly in 1982, while also freelancing for other publications including Spin, Rolling Stone and The Times.
At L.A. Weekly, he wrote about music, art, theater, movies and food, and in his free time he played in punk rock bands. That hobby fed his talent for music writing, and he wrote about the rise of gangsta rap, hip-hop and grunge in the 1980s, according to The Times.
“I’d show up to the studio and everybody’s nervous about being interviewed, so I’d just kind of hang out all day. Then you just come back the next day and you’re in the studio like it’s no big deal. And eventually, they’re talking to you,” Gold said in a 2012 interview.
Gold met his wife, Los Angeles Times arts and entertainment editor Laurie Ochoa, in 1984 while both were working at L.A. Weekly. They have two children, 23-year-old Isabel and 15-year-old Leon.
He left the Weekly in 1999, taking a job as a restaurant critic in New York, where Ochoa had gotten an executive editor job at Gourmet, the Times reported. But the pair returned to Los Angeles when Ochoa became editor in chief of L.A. Weekly and he returned as its restaurant critic.
Gold won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2007 while working at the Weekly. He was the first restaurant critic ever to be so honored, and remains the only one to ever win the Pulitzer. The judges praised his “zestful, wide-ranging restaurant reviews, expressing the delight of an erudite eater.”
Gold left the Weekly in 2012 to work at The Times, which published an annual insert featuring a guide to his favorite 101 Southland restaurants.
In 2015, Gold was profiled in the documentary “City of Gold.” The tagline: “Discover The World. One Meal At a Time.”