Jonathan Gold, the iconic Pulitzer-prize winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic, passed away on July 21st at the age of 57. His best restaurants list was an exquisitely curated and definitive resource, and his passion for diverse dishes made him an unusual and meaningful advocate for neighborhood restaurants.
Gold’s review of Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl in Silver Lake in the LA Times is an often-cited and prime example of his way with words: “Isaiah Berlin, in his famous essay, once divided thinkers into two groups: hedgehogs, who know one big thing, and foxes, who know many things… Koslow is a micro-hedgehog: She captures the flavor of a season and a place in a jar. Her cafe exists to reanimate the flavors she preserves, to display them as they ought to be displayed: rice porridge with toasted hazelnuts and jam; rice tossed with tart sorrel pesto and preserved lemon; fried eggs with puréed tomatillos and house-fermented hot sauce, just a smidge of hot sauce.” Although Gold’s food writing is what he was known for, he started off as as an equally talented and insightful music writer covering everything from grunge favorites to rappers.
The Goldbot, a Facebook Messenger chatbot that served up LA food reviews sourced from Gold’s reviews and Best of LA lists, was a particularly inventive way to utilize Jonathan’s recommendations and indicative of his collaborative spirit. Gold wasn’t precious about dining—the popular documentary “City of Gold” by filmmaker Laura Gabbert showcased his love of discovering new hot spots and his pride for for the Los Angeles food scene.
Known for driving around LA in a green Dodge Ram pickup truck, Gold was an eccentric and endearing critic and was once described by the Chef Ricardo Zarate as a man who “looked like George Washington.” Pete Wells’s New York Times obituary for Gold goes on to describe his unpretentious style and focus on the people behind the food, as well as Gold’s commitment to exploring small family-run establishments.
With the recent loss of Anthony Bourdain, Gold’s untimely passing is particularly devastating for the food community. Readers and fans are posting on social media and online, as well as visiting their favorite “Gold spots” to pay tribute. Gold wrote more than a thousand restaurant reviews throughout his career and will be remembered for his contributions not only to the California dining scene, but also for his no-nonsense approach to food journalism, which won him many loyal readers.
Header image courtesy of Maya Sugarman/KPCC.