Famed Los Angeles restaurant critic Jonathan Gold has died at the age of 57. Gold, who wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times, passed away Saturday evening at St. Vincent Medical Center of pancreatic cancer, his wife told the LA Times.
“He, more than any chef, changed the dining scene in Los Angeles,” longtime friend, chef and Mozza co-owner Nancy Silverton told the newspaper. “He really was the ambassador for our city.”
Family friend and food magazine director Peter Meehan told the LA Times, “He’s not just a writer — he was a conduit for the stories of Los Angeles. I just see the city through his eyes and across the table from him. Thinking of him not being here is just hard. It’s just hard to process.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement, “There will never be another like Jonathan Gold, who will forever be our brilliant, indispensable guide through the culinary paradise that is Los Angeles. Jonathan earned worldwide acclaim as a food critic, but he possessed the soul of a poet whose words helped readers everywhere understand the history and culture of our city. His passing is a loss for all who share his love for L.A. and unique understanding of how food — whether served from a truck window or atop a white tablecloth — is an incomparable expression of our common humanity.”
Gold Died Only Weeks After Being Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer in Early July
The food critic was only 57, and many are asking, how did Jonathan Gold die? Jonathan Gold’s cause of death was pancreatic cancer, his wife told the Los Angeles Times. Gold was diagnosed with the disease just weeks before his death, in early July, according to the newspaper.
Gold had not been public about his battle with the disease, which claimed his life so soon after his diagnosis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas — an organ in your abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of your stomach. Your pancreas releases enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help manage your blood sugar. … Most pancreatic cancer begins in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. This type of cancer is called pancreatic adenocarcinoma or pancreatic exocrine cancer. Rarely, cancer can form in the hormone-producing cells or the neuroendocrine cells of the pancreas. These types of cancer are called islet cell tumors, pancreatic endocrine cancer and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.”
The Mayo Clinic says that pancreatic cancer is rarely detected early and often spreads quickly. “Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly to nearby organs. It is seldom detected in its early stages. But for people with pancreatic cysts or a family history of pancreatic cancer, some screening steps might help detect a problem early. One sign of pancreatic cancer is diabetes, especially when it occurs with weight loss, jaundice or pain in the upper abdomen that spreads to the back,” the Mayo Clinic says.
Pancreatic cancer accounts for 7 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. The one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is about 20 percent, according to the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. “These low survival rates are attributable to the fact that fewer than 20% of patients’ tumors are confined to the pancreas at the time of diagnosis; in most cases, the malignancy has already progressed to the point where surgical removal is impossible,” the foundation says.
Gold Is Survived by His Wife, Laurie Ochoa, & 2 Children, Isabel & Leon
Gold is survived by his wife, Laurie Ochoa, the Times arts and entertainment editor and the former editor of LA Weekly, and his two children, Isabel, 23, and Leon, 15. On Twitter, Ochoa wrote Sunday, “Devastated by the loss of my true love. Overwhelmed by the outpouring. Thank you.”
“He gave us the keys to a hidden city, introduced us to folks we’d never have known. And the city changed. It is nothing like the city I found when I first came here in 1984,” food writer Ruth Reichl wrote in the Los Angeles Times after Gold’s death. “But he did it his way. Other food critics hire baby-sitters and leave their children at home. Not Jonathan. When he had a family, he wanted them with him wherever he went, and as a result Izzy and Leon have eaten more arcane food in more unusual places than any other kids on earth. I don’t think I’ve ever met better parents than Jonathan and Laurie — that family has been such a tight unit. It’s been awe-inspiring and pure pleasure to watch.”
She added, “Selfishly I lament Jonathan’s loss because I want to read all those stories he’ll never write. And I’m sorry for the city because L.A. without Jonathan just won’t be the same. But it’s when I think of the Ochoa-Gold family as three instead of four that my heart really breaks.
Gold, a LA Native, Also Worked for the LA Weekly & Gourmet, Won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 & Was Profiled in a 2015 Documentary
Gold, a Los Angeles native who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, also worked for LA Weekly, along with Gourmet magazine. He was profiled in a 2015 documentary “City of Gold.” According to the New York Times, Gold didn’t see only expensive, rarified restaurants as the target of his criticism. He helped put smaller restaurants and chefs on the map.
“Before Tony Bourdain, before reality TV and ‘Parts Unknown’ and people really being into ethnic food in a serious way, it was Jonathan who got it, completely,” Reichl told the New York 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.”
According to the NY Times, he once said, “I’m not a cultural anthropologist. I write about taco stands and fancy French restaurants to try to get people less afraid of their neighbors and to live in their entire city instead of sticking to their one part of town.”