He made a subspecialty of one street in particular. Ms. Reichl, who hired him at The Times and Gourmet, recalls his telling her in the 1980s that he had eaten every taco on Pico Boulevard. It was not just tacos. Eventually he wrote about his fascination with the street in a 1998 article that began, “For a while in my early 20s, I had only one clearly articulated ambition: to eat at least once at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard, starting with the fried yucca dish served at a pupuseria near the downtown end and working methodically westward toward the chili fries at Tom’s No. 5 near the beach. It seemed a reasonable enough alternative to graduate school.”
In 2016, Ecco Press bought his proposal for a memoir which Mr. Gold called “a culinary coming of age book, I guess.” It was to be called “Breakfast on Pico.”
Jonathan Gold was born on July 28, 1960, in South Los Angeles, where he was raised. His mother, Judith, was a school librarian who had been a magician’s assistant. Irwin Gold, his father, was a probation officer assigned to supervise Roman Polanski and Charles Manson, among other offenders. Jonathan later recalled eating Rice-A-Roni every Tuesday night and spending much of his childhood in his room, playing the cello. When he was old enough to fall under the influence of new wave, he plugged in his instrument and sawed away at it in the short-lived local band Overman.
With cello proficiency in his favor, he attended the University of California, Los Angeles. Although he got his degree in music history, in 1982, he had a sideline in art; he took a class with and worked as an assistant for the guerrilla performance artist Chris Burden. For a brief time, Mr. Gold thought of himself as a performance artist, too. “A naked performance artist, to be specific,” he told an interviewer. His materials for one piece were two bottles of Glade air freshener, a pile of supermarket broiler chickens, a live chicken at the end of a rope and a machete wielded by Mr. Gold, who wore only a blindfold. The chicken survived, and may have come out of the ordeal in better spirits than Mr. Gold, who later said, “The few minutes after an art performance are some of the most depressing in the world.”
While he was in college, Mr. Gold walked into the office of LA Weekly, an alternative paper, where he was soon reading proofs and pitching big, doomed ideas about the zeitgeist. For a time in the 1980s, he was the newspaper’s music editor, and by the 1990s he was better known as a music journalist than a food writer, contributing long articles to Spin, Details and other magazines. While reporting a Rolling Stone article about the emergence of gangsta rap, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg gave him a nickname: Nervous Cuz.