Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic and former SPIN writer Jonathan Gold has died. Gold was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this month, and died at St. Vincent Medical Center on Saturday (July 21) due to the disease. He was 57.
“There will never be another like Jonathan Gold, who will forever be our brilliant, indispensable guide through the culinary paradise that is Los Angeles,” the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, said in a statement. “Jonathan earned worldwide acclaim as a food critic, but he possessed the soul of a poet whose words helped readers everywhere understand the history and culture of our city.”
Gold got his start writing reviews for L.A. Weekly and later wrote for the Times and Gourmet. His noted preference for “hole-in-the-wall joints, street food, mom-and-pop shops, and ethnic restaurants” helped champion a new kind of criticism in the city, one that saw both strip-mall eateries and haute culinary establishments as worthy of critical attention.
In 2007, Gold was awarded the Pulitzer Prize while at L.A. Weekly, becoming the first restaurant critic to win the award for criticism. Praised for his “zestful, wide-ranging restaurant reviews, expressing the delight of an erudite eater,” he is still the only food critic to have won the award, and was again a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2011.
Gold was also a passionate music journalist. After leaving UCLA, where he was initially accepted on his skill as a cellist, Gold wrote reviews with L.A. Weekly as a music editor. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, he wrote criticism for SPIN, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Details, including early features on Nirvana, Soundgarden, and more. Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre are credited with giving Gold his hip-hop nickname “Nervous Cuz,” and the critic was seen as a Jewish ambassador for West Coast “gangsta rap,” a term which he deserves some credit, or blame, in creating.
Gold was also the subject of a 2015 documentary in which filmmaker Laura Gabbert followed the critic on a journey through the city’s lesser-known restaurants. He has won numerous James Beard Foundation awards, as well as the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award. In 2000, L.A. Weekly Books published Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles, a book featuring over 200 of Gold’s reviews.
“Jonathan understood that food could be a power for bringing a community together, for understanding other people,” Ruth Reichl, who edited Gold at the Times, told the paper. “In the early ’80s, no one else was there. He was a trailblazer and he really did change the way that we all write about food.”