The food world is mourning the death of celebrated Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, who passed away on July 21 of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles at the age of 57. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer had a cult following not just among Angeleno foodies, but among fans across the world who treated his reviews as the final word.
Gold’s four-decade-long writing career for publications such as Gourmet, California, LA Weekly, and the LA Times outlasted many of the LA establishments he visited as well as his anonymity. The distinct-looking critic revealed his identity in 2015 and later appeared in documentaries such as Netflix’s David Chang food series Ugly Delicious and the IFC comedy series Documentary Now.
According to Gold’s wife, LA Times arts and entertainment editor Laurie Ochoa, Gold was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early July. His sudden loss has sent shock waves through both the food world and the LA community.
Former Gourmet editor and iconic food writer Ruth Reichl tweeted, “I have never been sadder. Jonathan Gold is gone.” Food writers, editors, and TV food personalities ascross the country shared their dismay and fond memories of the Gold on social media.
Bon Appetit’s senior editor Julia Kramer wrote that Jonathan Gold is the reason she writes about food, saying, “The LA restaurant critic set me on my path. In fact, without him, I wouldn’t even have known a path existed.”
Dana Cowin, longtime former editor of Food & Wine and the host of the Speaking Broadly podcast on Heritage Radio Network, shared her heartbreak in an Instagram post. Cowin said, “His role in democratizing food has been profound. He appreciated the taco as much as (or more than) the tasting menu. He celebrated the people making the food. He was intrepid, honest, sincere, and just so kind. All my love goes out to his wife Laurie and kids Isabel and Leon who were his everything. And to the city of LA which has lost its culinary North Star.”
Chef Josef Centeno of downtown LA’s Baco Mercat and Orsa & Winston shared a touching Instagram remembering the critic for the passionate conversations they shared about food. “I cherished the conversations we had,” he wrote. “Whether it was talking about best uses of bush tomato from Australia, how long to cook turnips in embers or his favorite way to eat sayori fish. He will always be a tremendous presence, influence and mentor to me.”
Current LA it-chef Jessia Koslow told the LA Times that Gold’s review put her uber-popular restaurant Sqirl on the map. “He is 100 percent responsible for breaking the lid on Sqirl. The day after his review in the LA Times, people from all over came to eat toast while sitting on wooden boxes. It was a nightmare. I realized I would have to retool if I wanted Sqirl to actually function successfully as a café,” she told the publication.
New Yorker food correspondent Helen Rosner tweeted: “Oh my heart. JGold was one of my favorite people to argue with, to eat with, and to learn from. What a titanic legacy.”
TV-producer-turned-foodie Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and current host of the Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil, said that Gold “made Los Angeles and the world better.”
Chef Roy Choi described the critic to the LA Times as “the father of our food community” and shared memories of the critic’s support. “We were all the children in the station wagon, and he was the father, driving us around. That’s what he meant to us. He raised us, not only by what he knew but also through his search. As he was searching, we were learning,” he said. Choi also shared on Instagram saying he ate Korean food in honor of the late writer, saying he had ttongddak and jokkbball, which were some of Gold’s favorites.
Gold began his career as a proofreader for LA Weekly, where he eventually became an editor and started his food column reviewing smaller ethnic restaurants across Los Angeles called Counter Intelligence. The column was eventually picked up by the LA Times and although he moved to New York as a restaurant critic for Gourmet, a lifelong connection and career with the LA Times was established. Gold wrote reviews for California and Los Angeles magazines, and in 2001 moved back to the West Coast where he worked once again for LA Weekly and the Times. In 2007 Gold became the first restaurant critic to ever win a Pulitzer.
He will be remembered for his uncanny ability to make readers feel like they were eating each dish along with him, much like this gem from Gold's review of LA restaurant Bavel, which was his last. "Menashe’s hummus is magnificent, a ring of silky, airy purée surrounding a big spoonful of chunkier, denser stuff; a green rivulet of olive oil; smears of spicy, smoky harissa and green puréed herbs," he wrote in the review, dated June 15. "The pita has inflated into a sphere on the hot fire, but its interior has the lovely, evolved gluten network of a slow-risen country loaf. And as you scrape the bread between one density and the other, through the oil or not, the dish becomes an essay in the nuances of texture and fragrance, a nifty, chefly trick."
We here at The Daily Meal will remember Gold for his flavorful descriptions, insights, and authority. We will celebrate his memory by re-reading some of his best reviews, including Jonathan Gold’s 101 best restaurants for 2017.