As a who’s who of food world luminaries descended on Chicago last weekend, for the Windy City’s first go at hosting the highly prestigious James Beard Awards, there was no question that Josh Ozersky would be attendance. After all, not only was the garrulous, no-holds-barred writer a Foundation advisory board member and restaurant editor-at-large for Esquire, but he essentially shaped the face of food media as we know it today, founding New York Magazine’s insanely popular food blog, Grub Street (which just won its own JBA this year), authoring two seminal books, The Hamburger: A History (2008), and Meat Me In Manhattan: A Carnivore’s Guide to New York City (2003), and creating the carnivorous, celeb-studded cookout, Meatopia, which spawned annual iterations all throughout the US.
Which is why the food community was shaken to its core last night, when it was officially announced that Ozersky was found dead in his Chicago hotel room, at 11:40am.
Last seen leaving a karaoke lounge at 4am the previous morning, there is still no news as to the cause of his death—an autopsy will take place today—but an onslaught of in memoriams from his peers can leave no question as to his truly remarkable legacy.
“If Josh Ozersky had been dropped into any other place & century–Paris in 1890, London in 1750, Beijing in 1480–within six months he would have been at the center of the food scene, propelled by his opinions and his love of toppling icons,” tweeted New York Times critic Pete Wells.
And although Ozersky recently moved to Portland (after a brief, self-proclaimed “exile” to Brooklyn, which he unabashedly and unrepentantly chronicled on Vice, arousing a familiar maelstrom of controversy), we were proud to call the groundbreaking wordsmith one of our own, naming him one of the 50 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Food last year.
Our sincere condolences go out to Ozersky’s family and friends, his adored pit bull, Judah, and all that were loved, moved, and like this writer, profoundly and eternally inspired by him.