Los Angeles, United States-
Jonathan Gold, the senior most food critic of Los Angeles Times, died in Los Angeles on Saturday at the age of 57. The reason was pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease in July, as reported by the L.A. Times. His loss is widely being deplored by journalists, chefs and people from all over.
It’s almost impossible to describe Gold’s impact on Los Angeles’s food scene. He was the first ever food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize and helped the city’s international food scene gain nationwide acclaim. L.A. Times wrote yesterday, he helped Los Angeles, a fractured and multiplicitous city, “understand itself.”
“Jonathan didn’t want us to go out to Monterey Park simply to eat Sichuan pickles,” wrote Ruth Reichl, a food critic and editor at the L.A. Times from 1984 to 1993, on Saturday. “He didn’t lure us out to El Monte or the world’s best birria burritos for their mere deliciousness. He wrote enticing prose designed to take us out of our safe little territories to mingle with other people because he knew that restaurants aren’t really about food. They’re about people.”
He beckoned thirty-somethings from their Silver Lake enclaves to the San Gabriel Valley to sample griddle-cooked bullfrog and cumin-spiked mutton at Chengdu Taste, heeding them to respect the potency of Sichuan peppercorn, likening its numbing effect to “a flashing Las Vegas sign.”
He helped lifelong Angelenos venture to neighborhoods within their own city to which they had never been, much less dined; eastside to west, South Central to the Valley, and back again. Through his columns, first at L.A. Weekly—he started there in the 1980s as a proofreader and music writer—and later at the L.A. Times, he reviewed Guatemalan, Northern Thai, and Keralan restaurants in the way that other critics only wrote about Eurocentric food. And somehow, he managed to do it without being exotifying.
“I am trying to democratize food and trying to get people to live in the entire city of Los Angeles,” Gold told Vice in 2015. “I’m trying to get people to be less afraid of their neighbors.” Gold is survived by his wife, L.A. Times arts and entertainment editor Laurie Ochoa—they met at L.A. Weekly—and a daughter, Isabel, 23, and a son Leon, 15.