Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Richmond's Dining Scene's Cheerleader

Remembering Esquire editor-at-large Josh Ozersky.

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2015 at 12:14 PM

Food writer and Esquire editor-at-large Josh Ozersky was found dead today in Chicago. He was 47 and last night he attended the James Beard Awards' announcement and celebration of the 2015 winners.

We’ve had a lot of national food writers come through Richmond, but I think Ozersky was the most enthusiastic. He felt like Richmond was his own personal discovery, his very own dining gem that he’d uncovered and everyone else had overlooked.

For a local, that can be a little annoying.

I sat with him on a van during a tour of Richmond while he was in town for the Mid-Atlantic Food Writers Symposium last year. He pumped me for information about chefs, restaurants and purveyors the entire time. He asked me what the city was like to live in and what I thought might happen in the future.

It was an intense two or three hours. That man was focused. He zeroed in on each restaurant owner at every stop on our tour and asked long, detailed questions about the food — and never stopped eating.

Later in the fall, he would name Rappahannock as one of the 12 best new restaurants in Esquire's 2014 Food and Drink Awards, and Virginia as food region of the year.

It was obvious to anyone who followed him on Twitter or listened to him on a panel that Ozersky reveled in the controversy he stirred up. The thing was, he was smart and he was insightful. You may not have agreed with him and he may have pissed you off, but there was always an element in his argument that you hadn’t thought of before.

I wasn’t his friend and I didn’t spend a lot of time with him when he was here. Just hours here and there. But I did get a snapshot, I think, of the way he worked and the type of person he was — or maybe the one he wanted to portray. He wrote a moving story about his father for Saveur magazine that’s stuck with me, "Solitary Man." I reread it this morning. It’s a wrenching, honest — almost too honest — story that has little to do with food and everything to do with food. It’s a story that puts that intense, prickly persona on perilous ground -- it reveals a vulnerability and humanity that, on the page, the immensely talented Josh Ozersky never tried to hide.

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