Tribute: The Musical Side of Food Critic Jonathan Gold

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We are all incredibly saddened by this weekend’s tragic news of the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, food critic and longtime friend of the station Jonathan Gold. And by “we” I mean the whole of Los Angeles, because whether or not you regularly read his work, or even heard his hilarious, but informative segments on “Good Food” with Evan Kleiman, Gold’s impact on the way we go out to eat today is impossible to overstate. He is the one who caused the comment from the last presidential election about fears of “taco trucks on every corner” to be such a laughable, toothless threat; for Gold and the majority of Angelenos, such a vision is a culinary heaven, and that sentiment is now shared on a national level, thanks to his support.

What many don’t know is that he began his writing career in music journalism. He studied music while attending UCLA and starting writing for the L.A. Weekly in the ’80s, eventually serving as their Music Editor at a time when the free publication was the bible for the various, vibrant music scenes found throughout the city, from punk to hip-hop to innumerable Latin sounds. His 1989 cover story of N.W.A. is a great example of his work at the time (eagle-eyed viewers will also spot the cover’s shout-out to fellow KCRW pioneer, the late Joe Frank):

Jonathan Gold’s story on N.W.A. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Although Gold eventually segued into a career as a restaurant critic, writing extensively for both the Weekly and the Los Angeles Times (where he logged more than 1,500 stories), music was still an important part of his life. We were honored to have him join us as a selector on our Guest DJ Project podcast back in March of 2009, where he and Garth Trinidad spoke of some of the songs that inspired him throughout his life, ranging from the Germs and Funkadelic to English Renaissance composer John Dowland (Gold was a classically-trained cellist himself).

Jonathan Gold (w/Garth Trinidad) on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project, back when Gold was still keeping his identity under the radar for restaurant review purposes (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

In addition to all the culinary adventures he wrote and spoke about over so many venues, including right here at KCRW, revisiting these musical moments with Jonathan Gold seems a good way to make clear how dynamic a talent he really was.