Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Food

June 14, 2010

The Multimedia Musings of Mr. Cutlets

Food writer Josh Ozersky shares his culinary observations in magazines, online, and by television and radio.

Eric Yun

Everybody eats, but some people eat better than others. And for those people, now is a wonderful time to be alive. Josh Ozersky is one of the distinguished voices in New York helping food lovers live large. A former food critic for Newsday and current contributor for Time, Ozersky has written Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York and The Hamburger: A History (Icons of America). Aside from traditional media, Ozersky has made frequent television appearances, he blogs on RachaelRay.com, and is the host of The Mr. Cutlets Show, a radio program on the Heritage Radio Network. His latest project, Ozersky.tv, is a daily video series that highlights the food world in New York City.

Josh Ozersky
"If you own a restaurant and you don't know what the Times critic looks like, you're a shitty businessman."

Josh Ozersky

In the following interview, edited for length and clarity, Ozersky talks to Gelf about the state of food criticism, why the internet has made the industry better than detractors give it credit for, and the canard of the anonymous critic.

Gelf Magazine: How did you get started writing about food?

Josh Ozersky: Twenty years ago, when I was at NYU journalism school, I worked for a crappy paper called the Westside Spirit. They already had a food critic, but I suggested a street food column called "The Impoverished Gourmand." It was written by a fictional character called Casper Gutman who was a fallen food critic. I started writing about food again in 2001 when I wrote Meat Me in Manhattan, which became critically acclaimed. This led to my position as Newsday's food critic, and later a position at Grub Street.

Gelf Magazine: The internet has obviously changed food journalism. What are some of the positives the web has brought to the industry?

Josh Ozersky: It's almost all positives. Instead of having five jaded journalists with a monopoly on food coverage, there is a huge range of informed opinion. The Internet also creates more excitement, and news moves with great celerity. It's like the difference between having three channels and four hundred. There are no downsides.

Gelf Magazine: Are blogs and review sites like Yelp—which some say have made major newspaper food critics obsolete—a good thing or a bad thing for the industry?

Josh Ozersky: I don't think they're obsolete. The fact is that the few remaining critics—because they are becoming so rare—have a credible authority. On a place like Yelp you don't know who the guys are. With major critics, you know their established tastes; they have an authority that most don't.

Gelf Magazine: One charge levied against bloggers is that they reject the idea of anonymity in showing up at a restaurant. Where do you stand on this issue?

Josh Ozersky: I was never an anonymous critic. I think, especially in New York, the anonymity of food critics is largely a myth. If you own a restaurant and you don't know what the Times critic looks like, you're a shitty businessman.

Gelf Magazine: Are you afraid that the food culture espoused by excitable bloggers forces chefs to focus more on their celebrity instead of their food?

Josh Ozersky: The thing is most of those guys are not cooking. They have executive sous-chefs doing the cooking. The question is: Are they running good operations? Really famous guys like Wolfgang Puck run great restaurants. The so-called danger of celebrity chefs is bullshit used by bloggers to knock down those above them.

Gelf Magazine: There are more ethnic and niche restaurants than ever before. How do you keep up with them?

Josh Ozersky: I read Eater, Grub Street, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, and the Chowhound forums. As I became more well-known, people started giving me tips. I've had restaurants tipped to me almost immediately upon opening. Twitter also helps me keep informed by following people I know who eat out frequently.

Gelf Magazine: What advice—besides making good food—would you give to someone trying to open a successful restaurant?

Josh Ozersky: I'd suggest they get a very good mortgage or low rent. Less rent leads to lower prices that leads to more people. I'd also look for places where sophisticated eaters are underserved. Even a mediocre restaurant in Brooklyn can have people raving because they don't have to travel to Manhattan.

Eric Yun

Eric Yun is getting a second degree in communications and lives in Long Island.







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Article by Eric Yun

Eric Yun is getting a second degree in communications and lives in Long Island.

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