Koreatown LA’s Number One Fan: Jonathan Gold

Jonathan Gold was an American food and music critic. He worked as the chief food critic for the Los Angeles Times and even wrote for LA Weekly and Gourmet. However, he placed a positive impact on one region that was believed to be a dangerous and unsafe neighborhood back in the day: Koreatown, LA. What seemed like a small area with possible danger from gangs and riots was all changed slowly as Korean food became more recognized for delicious food and fun culture.

In an article by Colin Marshall titled, “What Jonathan Gold Understood About Korea,” Marshall mentioned how Gold has rarely left Los Angeles but “learned about the world by reading and eating in his hometown.” He traveled to Seoul after gaining a palette and understanding of Korean food, and he was curious as to what his first meal in Seoul would be. 

Gold began to document his full experiences of what he ate and saw in South Korea as he traveled around the country to try different food. He tried it all from mung bean pancakes to even raw meat and almost-live octopus. He wanted to get a full grasp of the food in South Korea to help re-live his memories of eating in Koreatown as he has grown to love the food. 

Assessing how he shaped the Western view towards Koreatown, Gold inspired non-Koreans to go and experience Koreatown. He wrote bout his love for Korea and what Westerners were missing out from that secluded region. The Korean food in Koreatown was not only a replication of authentic cuisine from the motherland, but it is now its own culture of blending Korean culture and other cultures. Not only that, he helped many Korean restaurants find fame in the local area. 

Gold continued to have his love and interest in Korean food. After unveiling his 2017 101 Best Restaurant in Los Angeles, he listed five Korean food restaurants that are still gaining much love and attention. Soban Restaurant, Park’s BBQ, Baroo, Sun Nong Dan, and Kogi were listed, and the five restaurants gained much attention from non-Koreans who were still unsure about Koreatown.

In addition, Gold even released an article titled “60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know,” where he listed the best places to go with the best food to eat in Koreatown. He was all about Koreatown, to the point where several people believed that Koreatown was his favorite LA neighborhood. He preaches that the restaurants in Koreatown are as good as the ones in Seoul, as he wrote about the region for almost four decades. 

Gold has always been respectful of Korean culture to the point where he tried the true authentic Korean food that non-Koreans have a difficult time liking. Foods like raw live octopus, raw red meat, cheonggukjang (deeply fermented soybean soup with a funky smell), and more, he was willing to eat to get a deeper experience of Korean culture was. He made sure to not only try the food but look into the history of why such food is so popular and loved. He gave a long description of each Korean restaurant that he liked in Koreatown to make sure the readers get a good picture. 

Jonathan Gold appreciated and took the first step toward bringing more Western attention to Korean food and Koreatown. Not only did he spend years trying each food in the region, but he also wanted to be sure everyone who read his column would crave Korean food as well. His legacy further continues into Koreatown as the region is becoming bigger and more diverse with other cuisines slowly trickling in. What came from a small, dangerous community spread into an internationally well-loved region with lots of activities, delicious food, bars, and more all through the love of one man who wanted to make Korean food more approachable within the Western eyes.


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