If you’ve ever read food writing in or about any city other than Los Angeles, then you’ve probably never truly experienced how transcendent and indispensable the Counter Intelligence column was to food and culture…and to life in Los Angeles. Its author was a king in the food world, imparting a Midas touch on any eatery he liked, no exaggeration, as his name was appropriately, Jonathan Gold.
(That was my piss poor attempt to write second person as he did so well).
As a lifelong Southern Californian, hearing about Mr. Gold’s sudden passing was heartbreaking. You can’t really know how pervasive and revered his opinion was unless you lived and breathed and ate what he ate. He ate, and ate…real food.
He believed that it was the stick to your soul, sizzling off the wok, fatty soup belly that creates the indelible memories and experiences of a grand food life lived. And of course, he was right! Jonathan Gold was the one who would gently steer you in this direction, showing you the light, making things that seemed inaccessible or scary become familiar and expected.
Mr. Gold brought to the masses what all children of immigrants in SoCal have known for years…that the best meals happen in somewhat shabby strip malls, in the sticky dining rooms of mom and pop shops — often times with no white linen table cloths in sight. Although he wasn’t that discerning, there was a time and place for those experiences, too. He taught us that all types of cuisine, and on a larger scale, all types of people could and should be celebrated.
He was a champion of the unadorned, the unpretentious, whilst peppering his reviews with esoteric references that elevated the intelligence of his reader. Only a true master of his craft could achieve such a feat. And he was recognized for it, having been the only food critic to receive a Pulitzer Prize for food writing.
He was a legend in a city of stars. Undoubtedly, one of its most influential characters; after all, it was often his opinion that brought everyone to the table.