CHICAGO — Noted food writer Josh Ozersky, known as an unabashed fan of the carnivorous lifestyle, has died at the age of 47. He died Monday at a hotel in Chicago, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Tuesday. He was in town covering the James Beard Foundation Awards. No cause of death was immediately available. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.
“Josh was a friend, I adored him. He was brilliant, funny, kind to me, curious and a great mensch,” TV food show host Andrew Zimmern tweeted Tuesday. “I will miss him.”
“I never told Josh Ozersky how envious I was of his ability to write, but I told others, and will continue to do so,” Eater food critic Ryan Sutton tweeted.
And Anthony Bourdain, the host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” in a tweet that noted dustups the outspoken Ozersky sometimes had with other foodies, said he hoped the man would be ultimately remembered as someone who “wrote truly beautiful sentences.”
In 2008, Ozersky won a James Beard Foundation Award for multimedia writing on food with Daniel Maurer for their work on New York Magazine’s Grub Street Blog, of which Ozersky was the founding editor.
Most recently the food editor for Esquire, he wrote for numerous outlets, including CNN. He also wrote several books, including “Meat Me In Manhattan: A Carnivore’s Guide to New York City,” “The Hamburger: A History” and “Colonel Sanders and The American Dream.”
“He loved meat, and he saw great meat-cookery as the ultimate expression of culinary culture,” the Chicago Tribune quoted Southern Foodways Alliance Director John T. Edge as saying. “Everything he did was overwrought and purposefully so. He didn’t apologize for that. He wore his emotion and love of food on his sleeve.”
In a 2005 piece for the now defunct website Slashfood, Ozersky wrote a paean to the grilled cheese and bacon sandwich that former CNN Eatocracy editor Kat Kinsman — now editor-in-chief at food site Tasting Table — tweeted was her favorite, “and I believe, his as well.”
After saluting how margarine, milkfat, and bacon lard “conjoin to create a prismatic aurora of pure satisfiability,” he wrote about how it all too often goes wrong.
“Naturally, in a long, largely solitary life, the proper mechanics of the sandwich have taken too large a part of my attentions, and I get upset when it’s done badly,” he wrote. “And it’s almost always done badly. My own hairy-knuckled handling of it invariably leads to some slight maiming or mangling, and I invariably take the first bite with sadness, or at best a thwarted, rueful ambivalence. What did I do wrong? And was it even worth it?”
His work was often personal. In a 2013 piece for Saveur, food flows like a stream through a melancholy travelogue of his time with his late father.
“I didn’t realize at the time that my father’s preoccupation with food was a form of denial, something he talked about so as to avoid talking about — or thinking about — other things,” Ozersky wrote in the piece. “But even as a child I could tell that he always seemed sad. It made me love him more, and feel guilty, and want to try to make him happy. At times, as I grew older, I was able to do that. Often it involved bringing him little surprises: mail-order Katz’s salami, a half-eaten carton of Cantonese roast duck.”
In addition to his writing, Ozersky was the founder of Meatopia, a festival celebrating meat and the chefs who cook it that The New York Times once called a “bacchanal of pork, beef, lamb, chicken, duck, turkey and quail.”
His last tweet, posted Sunday afternoon, now seems poignant and fitting.
“So I am in Chicago,” he wrote. “Where should I eat?”