Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Food

Jonathan Gold Made Food Writing Into An Art — Like No One Before

Though I never met Jonathan Gold, he and I shared a few experiences.

In 2012, we both became restaurant critics at major metropolitan daily newspapers — he at the Los Angeles Times, myself at the NY Daily News.

Except he, of course, arrived at his job with a Pulitzer Prize – the first for a food writer, for his writings at LA Weekly – and years of experience. I’d never reviewed a restaurant in my life. Neither us had a culinary education, except for the kind you get eating at restaurants, relentlessly.

I never wrote to Gold to tell him how much he inspired me. His worldview on food, community, and the restaurant as social experience cut through the marketing, brand-driven fakery, and celebrity-chef mediocrity that passes as dining these days.

His writing never lost the electric, infectious enthusiasm of a genuine lover of food, an amateur in the beautiful, classic sense. I tried tapping into that sense of wonder, partly to compensate for my own ignorance about the mechanics and chemistry of food – something Gold had mastered a long time ago.

Since I wrote for a tabloid, I also didn’t have the luxury of spending three paragraphs describing a piece of fennel, a fellow diner’s hat, or a chicken’s backstory. Reading Gold made me realize I didn’t have to. Gold’s writing was both Technicolor-rich and razor-sharp, without ever once sounding like he was talking down to a reader. A literary allusion never felt superfluous or snobby. Humor was his secret weapon. And his Jewishness would creep up at unexpected moments.

Savor this sentence from one of his last reviews, an appraisal of Los Angeles nouveau deli Freedman’s: “The china is mismatched in a way that suggests the year Morris and Yetta just gave up on the idea of separating the milchig plates from the fleishig ones, even on the holidays.”

Or this lush description of the deli’s mushroom-barley soup: “A mushroom-barley soup, which is a pallid dairy dish at even the best delicatessens, is thick as congee and as mushroom-pungent as a double-boiled Chinese soup, with a piercing mushroom flavor that stays with you long after the soup is gone.” Can’t you smell and taste it?

Just as vividly, he’d evoke Los Angeles, a city vastly more complicated than credited.

My mission as a writer is to explore, experience, and expose — I can’t help but wonder if Jonathan Gold knew how much he inspired food writers to follow in his example.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.