Deeply saddening news out of Chicago tonight: Acclaimed food writer Josh Ozersky has died at age 47. In town for the Beard Awards, rumors of Ozersky's death were flying around the media community and have just been confirmed via Pete Wells of the New York Times and Kevin Pang of the Chicago Tribune.
I'm immensely sad to report that the writer Joshua Ozersky is dead at 47, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner.— Pete Wells (@pete_wells) May 5, 2015
He died in Chicago, where he had traveled from his home in NY to attend the James Beard Foundation awards. An autopsy is set for tomorrow.— Pete Wells (@pete_wells) May 5, 2015
Josh Ozersky was found dead at 11:40am at 521 N. Rush St., which is the Conrad Chicago hotel— Kevin Pang (@pang) May 5, 2015
Ozersky was a trailblazer in the early digital food-media scene. In 2003, Ozersky introduced the world to his alter ego "Mr. Cutlets" in his book Meat Me in Manhattan and his 2008 book The Hamburger: A History was well-received by outlets like the Economist, and catapulted Ozersky to the top of the food writing scene. Ozersky was well known in the food internet world, too. In 2006, Ozersky launched New York Magazine's food blog Grub Street as founding editor, operating the site until 2008 and picking up a James Beard Award for his work along the way. He had several high profile posts following his GS tenure, including as a Time columnist and as an editor-at-large for Esquire. Ozersky celebrated chefs and restaurateurs in his web series Ozersky.TV, which launched in 2010. He also founded the growing event series Meatopia and was on board to co-author a cookbook with chef John Tesar.
While he wasn't always universally agreed with — he had a pretty famous feud with Robert Sietsema over comps at his wedding and also a well-known beef with David Chang — Ozersky's impact on the food writing world is hard to overstate. Here are some of Ozersky's most beloved essays.
· The Hidden Virtues of Tweezer Food [ESQ]
· Jonathan Benno: Tattooless Chef in a Food Network World [Observer]
· Found: The Incredible Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere that Nobody Knows About [ESQ]
· Solitary Man [Saveur]
While he died in Chicago, Ozersky was a recent transplant to Portland, OR and a long-time New York City resident. Our thoughts are with Ozersky's family and friends.
UPDATE Wednesday May 27, 2015: Today the Cook County Medical Examiner's office confirmed the cause of death. Per the Chicago Sun-Times: "He drowned in the hotel shower after suffering a seizure disorder, and his death was ruled an accident." This was not Ozersky's first seizure; he once described the experience: "Of course, you don't really have a fit. You wake up. There's no experience of having a seizure. You wake up, and either people are standing over you asking if you're OK, or (as in this case) you're on the floor, feeling like you were just bitch-slapped by The Game...After a seizure something goes out of you — a certain life force."