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Jonathan Gold gets Pulitzer for criticism

Before the official announcement, LA Weekly staffers popped open several bottles of bubbly.

When a call confirmed that food critic Jonathan Gold had won the alternative paper's first Pulitzer Prize, they pointed their bottles in his direction and let loose.

"He's still damp," news editor Jill Stewart told The Associated Press soon after.

A still dripping Gold said he was "giddy" about winning the Pulitzer for criticism Monday. Gold, 46, beat out his former colleagues at the Los Angeles Times to become the first food critic to capture journalism's highest honor.

"The Pulitzer Prize is something that, when you're a food writer, you don't even dream about," he said.

Gold started his restaurant-review column, "Counter Intelligence," at LA Weekly in 1986. He brought it to the Los Angeles Times for a few years before returning to the Weekly in 1996.

"I write about Los Angeles through the medium of food," he said. "The great thing about L.A. is what an astonishingly diverse city it is, and I get to hang out in all these neighborhoods. I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my life."

The self-described "chubby guy with long red hair" used to write about music before turning his attention to food.

LA Weekly is a free tabloid-style publication, with extensive entertainment information along with cultural and political stories. It has a circulation of 210,000. Readers often pick up copies from stacks at the entrances to cafes, clubs and markets.

Gold's win boosted morale at the paper, which changed ownership in 2005 and has weathered several layoffs since.

"Maybe it means they won't fire me this year," Gold joked.

The victory was particularly meaningful for LA Weekly editor Laurie Ochoa, who is also Gold's wife.

"This is especially sweet since it's the first Pulitzer," she said. "Now it's official: There is no conflict of interest when I say he's a great critic."

Michael Lacey, chief of Village Voice Media, which owns LA Weekly, said the Pulitzer win shows "alternative papers are beginning to get the respect they've earned."

"If I had cigars, I'd be passing them out right now," he said.

Gold said he planned to celebrate by going out to dinner with his wife, adding that "she always makes me pick the restaurant."

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