AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

2017-05-06 Remembering Josh Ozersky

Share on:

Josh Ozersky died suddenly at age 47 Monday morning May 4, 2015 after attending events and parties surrounding the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago.

I lost a friend, a drinking buddy, a fellow meat devotee, and the world lost most erudite and most passionate food writer of this young century.

About 12 hours before his death he invited me to join him for dinner. Alas, I did not get the message until it was too late. Probably a good thing. He was out late that night eating drinking and carousing, last seen at a karaoke bar.

text message from Josh to Meathead

Yes, he was a hell-raiser, a partier, a hollow-legged bourbon devotee, a provocateur, and highly opinionated carnivore without peer. He even called himself a glutton in an article in Time reviling steakhouses. But he was also a wordsmith of high achievement, a turner of phrases, and a forged steel hammer when he had a point to nail. And he always had a point to nail. And he always nailed it. He was literate and his Notre Dame PhD in American history informed his prose.

His byline appeared in top drawer publications: Time, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Esquire, Rachel Ray, and he wrote two books, love stories of a sort, The Hamburger: A History (2008) and Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore’s Guide to New York (2003 under the pseudonym, “Mr. Cutlets”). My favorites of his fertile brain were his short curmudgeonly videos, Ozersky TV, which I supported occasionally with funding. In them he was given to well reasoned rants, like this one called “The Best Hamburger and the Homerist Fallacy” in which he namechecks GK Chesterton to good effect.

His powerful personal writing style is on display in this article in Saveur about his father called “Solitary Man”. And his meatphilia is evident in this article in Esquire called “The Violent Secret of Meat.”

He was a founding editor of New York magazine’s food blog, Grub Street, for which he and co-editor Daniel Maurer received a James Beard Award in 2008. But it’s difficult making a living as a freelance food writer and blogger, so Josh launched a massive flesh fest called Meatopia about 10 years ago, with all the top chefs serving wondrous treats. Like a politician seeking funds, he was always looking for a way to keep up a Lucullan lifestyle on a grad student’s budget. It got him in a little hot water in 2010 when Robert Sietsema, another food writer, attacked him for writing about his wedding in Time without disclosing that the food and cooking was donated by chef buddies. He had many chef friends and he plugged them whenever he could. I’m pretty sure that’s what ended his gig at the magazine. Meatopia in NY was a financial success for a decade, and scions sprouted in San Francisco, London, and elsewhere. Full disclosure: He and I had undertaken preliminary talks to hold a Meatopia in Chicago.

I met Josh via email when he had a food safety question, and we had several lively exchanges. He even picked a fight with me about my theories of resting meat, and that turned into a round table email discussion with him, Dr. Blonder, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats, and chef Adam Perry Lang. Eventually he agreed with me because he loved steak so much that he wanted to eat them sizzling hot. He even wrote about my “afterburner” method for cooking steaks.

We once spent a day together in NY that started out with brunch in Chinatown at one restaurant, moved to another for lunch, and another for snack and then we walked the few blocks into little Italy where he wanted me to taste the turkey breast a restaurant was serving it at only 150°F after many hours in the sous vide machine (it was molten), then to another place where we met Rachel Ray, and then a cheese shop, and a bar, until I could take it no longer. I went back to the hotel and he remained to hobnob. The picture above was taken that night.

When I last saw him it was in Chicago at a Bourbon bar that had all of the Pappy releases, and we tasted about 30 samples. We shared our admiration for AJ Liebling between sips. So it doesn’t surprise me that he was seen singing karoke in a Chicago bar in the wee hours the morning of his death in his room at the Conrad Chicago Hotel.

In his essay on his father he remembers his mother’s death “But when I got up in the morning, she was dead. We didn’t talk about it.” It was sudden. His father also died suddenly, four days after being diagnosed with cancer. He wrote that “When I got back from the hospital, on Father’s Day, no less, there were still some leftover pork chops in the refrigerator from the Malaysian restaurant Penang on the Upper West Side, which, it turned out, had been his last meal. I finished them, of course; there was never any chance I wouldn’t.”

Josh lived like there was no tomorrow. And this time he was right. Tonight I will have a big juicy burger in your memory, my friend.

Published On: 5/15/2017 Last Modified: 5/21/2022

Share on:
  • Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.

 

High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click to comment or ask a question...

Cause of death

On May 27, the Cook County medical examiner’s office released the cause of death. Josh had an epilectic siezure and drowned in the shower.

A great bio of Josh

Portland Monthly ran this great profile of Josh a year after his death.

Spotlight

These are not paid ads, they are a curated selection of products we love.

All of the products below have been tested and are highly recommended. Click here to read more about our review process.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our “buy now” links. This has zero impact on the price you pay but helps support the site.


The Pit Barrel Cooker May Be Too Easy


The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It’s among the best bargains for a smoker in the world. This baby cooks circles around cheap offset smokers because temperature control is so much easier. Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them.


The Efficiency Of A Kamado Plus The Flexibility Of The Slow ‘N Sear Insert

kamado grill
Built around SnS Grill’s patented Slow ‘N Sear charcoal kettle accessory, this 22-inch kamado is a premium ceramic grill that brings true 2-zone cooking to a kamado. Click here for our article on this exciting cooker.


The Good-One Is A Superb Grill And A Superb Smoker All In One


The Good-One Open Range is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker, placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side. Click here to read our complete review.


Groundbreaking Hybrid Thermometer!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

The FireBoard Spark is a hybrid combining instant-read capability, a cabled temperature probe, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Couple that with high standards of design and workmanship and it’s a “must own.” Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review.