Despite not being surprised (it was running joke that his excessive habits would be his downfall), I was nevertheless shocked by the death of Josh Ozersky on Monday. Ig published Josh’s first book, Meat Me in Manhattan, back in 2003, launching his career as a food writer. We worked closely with Josh (aka Mr. Cutlets) back in 2002 and 2003, and he was certainly unforgettable, in both the best and worst of ways. He was ahead of his time when it came to the renewed popularity of all things meat, and like so many others on the web, I recall many an enjoyable night with him over the grill (and in a whiskey bottle). As an author, he was an exceptional writer, as well as an exceptional pain in the ass. In other words, a man of great contradiction, which I think most of his fans and non-fans came to appreciate.
While I hadn’t seen Josh in several years–one of the tragedies of publishing is that once you finish working with an author, you frequently lose touch with them–I would occasionally watch his videos on Ozersky TV. I particularly enjoyed his walks through different NYC neighborhoods, where you would get the full Josh in all of this un-muted, quasi-Jewish randomness, a sort Lonely Planet Guide to Lower Manhattan meets Bye Bye Braverman. Ultimately, if the true worth of a man is who remembers him after he is gone, than Josh was a man of great value.
The most fitting tribute I can think of–besides a Free Meat Day in NYC–is to share his concluding words from Meat Me in Manhattan, offering the world a glimpse of a young Mr. Cutlets coming into his own as Josh Ozersky:
Mr. Cutlets Prayer
Let your beef be always bloody,
and your soul as white as veal;
May your pork be pink and salty
With nothing wasted but the squeal.
May your sausage always be plump
and your chicken always crisp,
May your stews and daubes be unctuous,
nourishing and rich.
Let your table always be covered
With the thickest steaks and chops
Let those who would restrain you
May themselves be stopped
Let your bacon be well-cured,
As a kindly tended patient,
May your palate not get bored
Nor your restaurants complacent
From Harlem to the Battery
On sidewalk or on street
May Mr. Cutlets bless you,
Wherever we may MEAT.