A Toast To Jonathan Gold, The Man Who 'Inspired A Whole Generation'

Jonathan Gold

Jonathan Gold poses for a portrait at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 27, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Jonathan Gold, the esteemed Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic, died Saturday — just weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

In his years of writing for L.A. Weekly and then the L.A. Times, Gold introduced Angelenos and the world to the delicious, diverse city many would not have noticed without him. As tributes pour in from family, friends, colleagues, readers, chefs and everyone in between, KPCC's Take Two and Airtalk spoke to several people whose lives were forever changed by Gold and his writing. Here's how they will remember Gold and his legacy in L.A. and all over Southern California:

MARK GOLD, JONATHAN GOLD'S BROTHER

Mark Gold is also the associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability at UCLA. In addition to having a close relationship as siblings, the two collaborated professionally to bring environmental sustainability to the food service industry.

On growing up with Jonathan Gold:

"Growing up in the Gold household, dinner was bloodsport. We were all pretty darn opinionated and shared lot of those opinions and so in some ways, he was trained as a critic right off the bat.

"L.A. was always home. He lived in New York for a couple of years, and then he came back to L.A. because L.A. was home. Laurie, his wife, became editor-in-chief of LA Weekly. They came back because... people of the world and the world is L.A. And I think the way he embraced that was incredible.

"Starting off with his Pico adventures that everybody's heard on NPR for years on This American Life. He's always loved exploring the whole mosaic that is Los Angeles... He understands how diversity and immigrants have enriched L.A. to make it the most interesting and incredible city in the world, and he loved that about L.A."

JAVIER CABRAL, FOOD WRITER

Cabral was a restaurant scout for Jonathan Gold at the L.A. Times. The gig entailed going out to find the best restaurants and food spots for Gold to review. Cabral and Gold connected when Cabral reached out at as a 16-year-old aspiring food writer.

On discovering Gold's writing growing up in East L.A.:

"I remember being awestruck by first seeing like Ramones reference in an article about dumplings or something like that. I was like, what the hell? Who is this guy?"

On Gold's belief that LA was a mosaic, not a melting pot:

"He respected each restaurant, each chef, each cook for their own saison — their own flavors. He didn't write about it in a way that would undermine who they were as a cook or their food. He respected every single chef or cook as they were.

"So he was opposed to the whole melting pot concept, because the melting pot concept relies on the idea that everything will blend in and become one thing. But for him, he respected everyone separately."

On Gold's unique approach to food writing:

"He inspired a whole generation of not just diners, but also writers like myself. I grew up in a kind of poor family in East L.A., and he made me see that I don't have to have a hundred bucks to go out and take my family out for dinner. I can take my dad out to go eat some pho for fifteen bucks.

"He made every kind of restaurant, including the ones in the San Gabriel Valley or in the little regions around L.A. He made food very approachable by anyone including me, a little Mexican-American kid who had nothing."

GENET AGONAFER, MEALS BY GENET CHEF

Genet Agonafer, chef of the Ethiopian restaurant Meals by Genet, credits his attention to her restaurant's success. The family business in L.A.'s Little Ethiopia was on the verge of closing when Gold's writing put them on the map. Agnoafer and Meals by Genet were also featured in the 2015 documentary City of Gold.

"He found people like me who would never get a publicist. We would never get anywhere without him and the passion he puts. He wrote 'chicken stew for the soul' about my doro wot. He put me on the best ten dishes of 2004. Without him, people like me don't exist. He made a name for me, and I am just so grateful.

"Before I was making it, there was no one to serve it. And with him, to this day, I cannot make it fast enough. I'm honored he loved my dish, I'm honored to know him."

ARMANDO DE LA TORRE JR., GUISADOS CO-FOUNDER

De La Torre Jr., the co-founder and general manager of the Mexican restaurant Guisados in Boyle Heights and other locations in L.A., said Guisados went from 10 to 15 customers a day to long lines going out the door.

"It was game changing for us, there's no other way to put it. We were just a restaurant with fun ideas. The day his article came out, it took us to a different level of exposure."

SEAN XIE, CHENGDU TASTE CO-OWNER

Sean Xie, co-owner of Chengdu Taste, a Sichuan restaurant that opened in Alhambra in 2013, and has since expanded to five other cities in the U.S.

"We didn't know how Jonathan found out about us. When we opened, we were in Alhambra. Most people in L.A. who live in the Westside don't even know about the city. Eighty pecent of the city's residents are Chinese.

"Initially, our service staff don't even speak English well. Somehow Jonathan discovered our restaurant. Then we started noticing over the weekends, we see these non-Chinese customers coming (in). Right now, we have over 50 percent non-Chinese customers coming to our restaurant. That's because of Jonathan."

YOUR STORY

Jonathan Gold would've turned 58 this coming Saturday. We'll be remembering him this week by toasting to him over a delicious meal. If you're doing the same, share a photo with us with the hashtag #ToastGold.


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