“Every aspect of my life is utterly immersed and overflowing with the juice of literature and the love of food,” Josh Ozersky declared while grilling meats atop his East Village rooftop in a 2013 “Munchies” video for Vice.
The prolific writer—who died yesterday in Chicago, where he had traveled for the 2015 James Beard Awards—was a larger-than-life figure in the food world, and one of the founding editors of Grub Street. When we named him on of the “20 Greatest Food Writers of All Time” and mentioned the notorious spat that got him 86’ed from David Chang’s restaurants, he made sure to jump into the comments and exclaim, with perverse pride, “I am actually still banned from the Momofuku empire!” Mr. Cutlets was always in the mix, and we loved him for it.
Ozersky was a true original whose fearlessness and unabashed embrace of his own eccentricities made him one of the most exciting voices to document the rise the of foodie mania. As countless chefs, writers, and editors have tweeted last night and this morning, many people disagreed with him, but they never stopped reading because Ozersky was too witty, too smart, and too full of energy to ever ignore. He was an essential counterpoint to an increasingly sycophantic food-writing machine, which he memorably bashed for churning out hordes of dull M.F.K. Fisher wannabes.
As a founder of Meatopia and a commentator for publications like Time and Esquire, Ozersky’s impact on food was vast. But what made him great was that he created no false distinctions between his lust for burgers (of which he was our nation’s poet laureate) and the other curiosities of his life. His academic mind, his love of language, and his inclination towards the fringe elements of society (watch the video above) all spilled over into his prose, and he wasn’t afraid to get a little messy in the search for veritas.
Everyone in the food world knew of Ozersky, and we will dearly miss him. Take some time today to read the best of Josh Ozersky, as well as some remembrances from others who were shocked to hear of his passing.
Writers, Chefs, and Editors Remember Josh Ozersky
Ozersky’s death was a surreal counterpoint to the celebrations surrounding last night’s James Beard Awards. Here are some of the instant reactions to the news.
Sad to hear of the passing of Meat lover and fantastic writer Josh Ozersky #RIP
— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) May 5, 2015
Sad to learn of Josh Ozersky’s death. We often disagreed, but I loved his passion, his talent, his fearlessness. The world is smaller.
— ruthreichl (@ruthreichl) May 5, 2015
Josh Ozersky’s Greatest Hits
Got some other favorites? Let us know on Twitter (@firstwefeast) and we’ll keep adding them here:
Blog-Tied: How a Hunger for Clicks Drives New York’s Brutally Fickle Food Scene
“By creating unsustainable hype around new restaurants, online food sites condemn those six months or older to murderous silence and obscurity,” writes Ozersky in his beautifully written piece for the Observer. First We Feast contributor Foster Kamer notes, “Even as he’s ostensibly hanging up his blogging/provocateur spurs here, it was still a piece that inspired so much mania in people, so perfectly, so wonderfully.”
So You Want to Be a Food Writer?
“During my first marriage, I would have been willing to take a five-hour bus ride to try a mango I heard was good,” writes Ozersky in not-what-they-teach-you-at-J-school treatise on being a food writer. Encouraging aspiring writers to know the world outside of food, he explains, “My favorite writers are a discredited Victorian historian, an insane New Yorker critic, a blind Argentine librarian, and a Russian fop.”
“My father, a brilliant but melancholy man, loved to eat, but I believe he took more pleasure in talking about eating. He would talk about his last meal while eating the current one, and soon his talk would turn to the subject of where we ought to eat next.” Read the entire story about Ozersky’s relationship with his father, a painter, in Saveur. Anthony Bourdain describes the piece as “Ozersky at full power.”
Grilled Cheese and Bacon and Me
Ozersky explains, in true Ozerskian fashion, how he came to master the bacon grilled-cheese sandwich for Slashfood: “My knowledge has been purchased at great cost, and if now I can prescribe its construction with the exactitude of a Japanese tea ceremony, it is only because I have neglected whole vast tracts of human life to do so.”
Ozersky’s Rules for Dining Out
“Life is too short for platonic love affairs and savory desserts.” Ozersky drops the mic on Esquire.com.
Consider the Food Writer
Ozersky was not only a brilliant food writer, but also a thoughtful commentator on the art of food writing. His willingness to take on sacred cows and challenge the status quo is epitomized by this smart and unrelenting literary criticism of food-writing legend M.F.K. Fisher.