Jonathan Gold, the Los Angeles Times critic whose love of the obscure ethnic food shops of Los Angeles turned on a generation to tastes they may not have otherwise discovered, has died. He was 57 and passed from pancreatic cancer at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles tonight, according to his wife, Times arts and entertainment editor Laurie Ochoa. He was only diagnosed with the disease in early July, and his rapid demise shocked colleagues.
He was the first food critic to win the Pulitizer Prize, taking home the honors in 2007. Gold pioneered reviews of the noodle shops, Thai restaurants, food trucks and odd take-out places that make up much of the sprawling Los Angeles food landscape. He delighted in places that offered menus that weren’t in English and proprietors eager to give him off-the-menu items.
In the course of his four decades as a food critic, he changed restaurant reviews from high-end investigations to true celebrations of street food and small restaurants. His Counter Intelligence column in the LA Times became widely imitated and is credited with influencing the way so many critics write about food.
Gold won his Pulitzer Prize while he was at the alternative LA Weekly. The judges called his work “zestful, wide-ranging restaurant reviews, expressing the delight of an erudite eater.” He is still the only food critic to win a Pulitzer and was again a finalist in 2011.
He also won many James Beard Foundation journalism awards, including the M.F.K. Fisher prize for distinguished writing in 2011 and the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award.
His reviews were compiled into a 2000 book, Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles, and his annual review of the 100 top restaurants in the city was a must-read.