For more than three decades, Jonathan Gold celebrated and educated professional chefs, restaurant owners and civilians alike about the food culture in Los Angeles. I'm a native Angeleno, like Gold, but he introduced me to neighborhoods I would have never found or landed in on my own. His stories sparked my desire to explore them and scribble down notes about the experiences in a little black composition book.
He has inspired so many of us in the food world; even after 32 years, his passion for food was as fresh as his first Counter Intellegence story in 1986. The writing just got better. One of my favorite recent observations was when he compared Vespertine in Culver City to dining on Jupiter. Gold never got stale.
His best year, of course, likely would be 2006, when he was at L.A. Weekly and wrote the stories that won him a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2007, the first (and still only) bestowed upon a food critic.
Maybe the best remembered was the piece he did on El Atacor #11’s Porno Burrito, comparing it to the appendage of porn star John Holmes. The visual of Gold biting into one of those — thanks to his own salacious description — is etched forever in my brain.
Stories on the French Bistro K in Pasadena, the white duck at Nanjing Kitchen in the San Gabriel Valley and rock & roll chef Kerry Simon were among the 10 stories that garnered him the prize in 2007.
Personally I've always savored a good snark, as in the review he did on “The Devil’s Own Steakhouse,” the (now closed) Lodge in Beverly Hills that was home to Paris Hilton at the height of her notoriety.
“To get to the Lodge, you dump your Lexus off with the valet, march down a breezeway — it looks like the path to Thunder Mountain at Disneyland — and face down a maitre d' as formidable as the frontline of the Pittsburgh Steelers, only wearing a much nicer suit. If you are on his list, you will be admitted to the bar, where you will nibble those peppery bacon strips and rosemary-toasted almonds until your name is called — usually 40 minutes or two $15 martinis after the designated time of your reservation, or until the lesser hits of Duran Duran and Earth, Wind & Fire sear themselves into your soul.”
It just doesn’t get juicier than that, and it was spot on. I had exactly the same experience but could never have described it so perfectly. I didn't go back a second time after that review.
Always by his side during those L.A. Weekly years was renowned food photographer Anne Fishbein, who mourns the loss of her dear friend.
“I loved our roundups because they were so ridiculously excessive and actually kind of nose-to-the-grindstone difficult regarding consumption,” Fishbein tells L.A. Weekly. “There were the hot dog and hot chocolate roundups. We all like hot dogs and hot chocolate, but try having five or 10 of those a day for two weeks.
“He was one of my favorite people in all the world,” Fishbein adds. “There was nothing better than wandering around Los Angeles with Jonathan Gold. I will forever miss my smart, funny, kind and generous friend.” [Ed. note: A GoFundMe has been created to help Gold's family.]
The reviews that brought in the prize are here: pulitzer.org/winners/jonathan-gold.