It’s hard to come up with the right words to explain what a man like Jonathan Gold meant to me, let alone what he meant to Los Angeles. I mean, we are talking about the greatest American Food critic, whose writing even won him a Pulitzer Prize. But I want to try to put some words together.
I feel like I got my “golden” ticket” invitation into the food community directly from Jonathan. His 101 Best Restaurants list started out as my road map to experience new restaurants, learn about different cuisines and dishes out of my comfort zone, and finally get to know and love the city I am native to: Los Angeles. It fueled my passion to do something creative, and eventually led me start Jessie Eats!
It’s amazing that social media can bring strangers together to create true friendships. @thejgold is probably the twitter handle I have tweeted the most (and I’ve tweeted @jtimberlake PLENTY of times!) But unlike Justin Timberlake, Jonathan always responded back! Whether it was a “like” or an #askjgold answer, I felt like my twitter conversation mattered and was appreciated.
It wasn’t until I met Jonathan face to face years ago, that I truly felt acceptance into the food world. I introduced myself with my name & an explanation of who I was, and without hesitation Jonathan responded, “I know who you are.” And that was it! It’s silly how this simple recognition made me feel like my voice & opinion mattered.
“Food binds people together, it’s the great connector.” –Phil Rosenthal
But I felt welcomed by Jonathan to continue many conversations to come, which were always full of joy and excitement surrounding food! Over the years, Jonathan personally dared me to try new things… maybe for his own entertainment to see if I would actually do it, or to really encourage me to go out of my comfort zone. You better believe I ate the suggested Coco Tai Pla (fish kidneys) on my birthday at Jitlada so that I could be, as he put it, “hardcore.” He has not been shy to review my “bad” choice of making deviled eggs for Thanksgiving celebration, he was quick to avoid topics like his thoughts on Vespertine before his review came out just as a teacher might do with a student, & he personally made sure to “hook me up” with passes to my favorite LA Times food event: The Taste.
These little shared conversations and moments are why I love this food community so much. We SHARE! Chefs put their hearts and souls into creating and sharing special dishes with their diners. And we, in return, hopefully share them with our loved ones, while creating a memory of a shared experience. Although I never dined with Jonathan Gold, I felt like I have every week because his writing made the reader feel like you were sharing his meal and experience with him.
I may not have perfect words to speak of my friend Jonathan, but I do have something that I think first led me towards Jonathan’s writing: a heart (although broken at the moment) and a huge passion for food!
Thank you Jonathan for being my friend, believing in me, and sharing your food experiences.