Jonathan Gold was a restaurant critic, the only one to win a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts, and he was 57 when pancreatic cancer ended his life on Saturday—just a few weeks after his diagnosis. He was also a gentle giant in an industry that has now lost two of late; as the New York Times puts it, his "curious, far-ranging, relentless explorations of his native Los Angeles helped his readers understand dozens of cuisines and helped the city understand itself." Gold waxed poetic about haute cuisine and taco trucks alike, but notes the Times, he "was in his element, when he championed small, family-run establishments where publicists and wine lists were unheard-of and English was often a second language." Gold was the Los Angeles Times critic since 2012; before that, he wrote decades' worth of reviews for the likes of LA Weekly and Gourmet, though LA Eater notes his start as a music reviewer helped inform his "lyrical" writing.
"Before Tony Bourdain, before ... people really being into ethnic food in a serious way, it was Jonathan who got it, completely," writer Ruth Reichl tells the Times. "He really got that food was a gateway into the people, and that food could really define a community. He was really writing about the people more than the food." Gold was the subject of the City of Gold documentary, which followed him in the old green Dodge pickup that he'd put 20,000 miles on each year in search of his latest review; on the way to one, he'd often stop at "four or five other places along the way," per the Times. Adds the LA Eater, Gold would leave "life-changing positive reviews almost wherever he went." His reviews "hang in likely hundreds of restaurants across the city of Los Angeles, looked upon by restaurant owners, workers, and customers with pride. He will be missed."