Josh Ozersky on His Upcoming Wedding Feast, the Demise of the Feedbag and (Food) World Domination
Jason Perlow/Hamburger America Josh Ozersky and friend.
Last Friday morning on the windswept tundra that was Soho, one half expected to encounter a pack of wolves trundling down Spring Street. Instead, a larger, equally hungry apparition materialized in the mercifully insulated confines of Balthazar: Josh "Mr. Cutlets" Ozersky.
After removing his fedora and declining the coat check, he debated over the breakfast menu. A plate of eggs and potatoes was requested, with a sausage side added at the last moment. Though a triple-hitter Queens burger foray loomed in the afternoon (as part of his preparations for the burgers he's planning to ingest during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Burger Bash later this month), dinner would be a meal-replacement shake. "I'm trying to keep it under 7,000 calories a day," Ozersky cracked.
No matter his physical size, which is considerable, the former Feedbag scribe is an increasingly large presence in the food world, popping up on platforms as varied as the Heritage Radio Network ("I really want to have NPR show"), Rachael Ray's website, and Time.com.
Word is you're engaged. Congratulations.
I am engaged -- ecstatically so. I was just making arrangements. I'm going to have a buffet at my wedding, and it's going to have all the greatest chefs making different dishes in steam trays. I want to have Orhan Yegen doing marinating vegetables with hummus -- there's a lot of Israelis who are going to be there. My fiancee's parents are Israeli. There's going to be vegetarians there -- entirely from her side of course -- so they need to have a vegetable, so they can eat that. And then I might have the great Joe Ng do some dim sum. And then -- I haven't told anyone about this -- but I want to have Eddie Schoenfeld do a big salad he makes with this wonderful black vinegar dressing. Then I'm gonna have three pastas: a vegetarian pasta, a meat pasta, and a seafood pasta. The seafood pasta is gonna be Ed Brown's scallop raviolis; the vegetarian pasta, I'm going to get Michael Psilakis to do a vegetarian moussaka, with tons of cream and eggplants or whatever. And then I want to have Michael White make lasagna -- which no one has ever had; it's not in any of the restaurants.
You brought up vegetarians -- what's your stance on them these days?
My philosophy is "love the sinner, hate the sin." That's what the Catholic church's attitude towards sexual deviancy is. I don't like vegetarianism, which I see as wrong-headed and unwholesome. But I'm also willing to cede that the logic of animal rights, as first articulated by Peter Singer and then later embraced by writers like Jonathan Safran Foer and so forth, is essentially irrefutable. Meatheads who try, by making stupid arguments like, 'Why do we have teeth?" are just making jerks of themselves.
Are you at all concerned with eating meat that is sustainably raised or not filled with hormones?
If it tastes better, I'm concerned about it.
Let's talk about the young Ozersky. Have you always been the kind of person who could have breakfast at Balthazar and then go have three burgers in Queens?
I am that kind of person, which is why I'm fat. Professionally, I was the Queens restaurant critic for Newsday. And many years ago, in the early nineties, I wrote a column in Westside Spirit called the "Impoverished Gourmand" under the name Caspar Gutman -- he was the proto-Mr. Cutlets. Because I was poor, I went around eating a lot of street food, so I learned a lot about that. But later on, my second tour of duty in New York, when I came back after I had been married, divorced, and had a little money in my pocket, then I liked to eat in regular restaurants. My father was a great gourmand. He was one of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's most favorite customers -- he would try out new dishes on my dad. So I got to go to JoJo when JoJo was really good. When I came back the second time, I would eat out a lot and I got a taste of the high life, but I still liked the kebabs and all the street shit.