What The New LA Times Food Editor Learned From Jonathan Gold

Writer Peter Meehan (center) and Frankies Spuntino co-owners Frank Castronovo (left) and Frank Falcinelli (right) sign books on September 17, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for City Harvest)

It's been almost three months since Jonathan Gold passed away. The Los Angeles Times has been rebuilding and expanding its food coverage, both as a resonse to the death of the Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic and as the paper finds its footing under new ownership.

Yesterday, the paper announced it has hired Peter Meehan as its new food writer and contributing editor.

Meehan is the co-founder and editor of the now defunct James Beard Award-winning food magazine Lucky Peach. He's also known for his "$25 and Under" column in the New York Times and the Netflix show Ugly Delicious.

A New Yorker, Meehan will divide his time between coasts. He has family ties to Southern California and has been traveling here on-and-off for the past 20 years.

Before Gold's death, eating with him was often part of Meehan's visits.

In an interview on Friday with Take Two, Meehan said that he and Gold became good friends after he made it a point to interview the L.A. food icon.

"I engineered a profile of him basically as a ruse so I could get to know him for Lucky Peach," Meehan said. "You wanna meet your hero so write a story about them kinda thing."

During that interview, at a barbecue restaurant in Kansas City, Meehan received his first Gold-style lesson on how to review food.

"I said something a little bit sharp about the barbecue, that I didn't like it and Jonathan just shut me down in the most magnificent way, explaining to me that that was my esthetic take on their barbecue, but what I needed to do was appreciate the style they were cooking in, how they were making it and judge it against that," Meehan said.

Like Gold, Meehan's food writing philosophy goes beyond taste.

Lucky Peach was known for its writing and has been described as a magazine that told "stories about people, places, traditions, flavors, shared experiences and cultural identities."

Meehan said he was planning to bring that style to his new gig as food editor at the L.A. Times.

"I think one of the opportunities we have at the food section is to try to reflect the stories and communities that are in Los Angeles, to offer a window into communities that aren't the same as our own, so we can understand and cross boundaries, 'cause if we understand how people eat, we'll understand who they are," he said.

In the announcement about Meehan's hire, Gold was mentioned more than once but Meehan is reluctant to draw comparison's between himself and Gold.

"[Gold's] legacy is impossible to overstate, and any comparison that gets made between me and him is generous," Meehan said, "but nobody's Jonathan."