Nothing Gold Can Stay: Remembering Jonathan Gold

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On Saturday, July 21, 2018, when LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, Los Angeles lost its culinary leader.

No other food critic was as beloved as Jonathan, the undisputed authority on LA. His love for LA was contagious, and many Angelenos (including myself) used his list of 101 Best Restaurants as their food Bible. Jonathan was the first to skip over the snobby eateries of LA, choosing to champion the taco truck, the hole-in-the-wall restaurant, the hard-to-find hidden gem located “between the 7-Eleven and the dry cleaners.”

No other food critic was as respected by chefs. J Gold loved food (more than anyone I know), but he loved the people who made the food even more. He cared deeply about the chefs, using his critiques to support them and help them hone their craft. Jonathan was more than a critic, he was a friend to those in the food world. I’ll never forget watching him comfort the wife of the late Chef Tui (Jitlada restaurant). As they cried and shared memories, Jonathan held her with one hand while balancing boxes of leftovers in his other.

No other critic has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Jonathan’s prose transcended food writing – its beauty made even non-food lovers want to try the dishes he described. His work was so funny and so well-researched (my god, he was smart) that it was an absolute pleasure to read. His writing didn’t look down on readers, like critics of the past; instead, it brought them to his table and encouraged them to grab a plate. More than anything, he wanted us to eat.

I created my #CarnivorrGoesForGold project to see the city through his eyes, taste it through his palate. I expected great food, but what I didn’t expect was the greatest journey of my life. His list was the best course on LA I could have ever asked for - I expanded my knowledge, my palate, and my passion for food. Total strangers became some of my closest friends, forever bonded because of our shared admiration for Jonathan. Chefs and restaurant owners literally cried when telling me how his words changed their lives. Gold's love for Los Angeles was contagious, and he helped me fall back in love with my hometown.

The first time I felt like I really mattered in the food industry was when I introduced myself to Mr. Gold. To my surprise, he said “I know who you are.” Nothing has been as validating for me as that moment. I'm grateful that I completed my project when I did and got the chance to meet my favorite writer.

I would not be who I am without his influence; he taught me, and the rest of the world, invaluable lessons in food and in life. I can’t imagine how we will go on without Jonathan Gold’s voracious voice. The Golden State will never shine as brightly, but we must try to carry on his legacy and keep Los Angeles on the culinary map as we build community around a dinner table.