Jump to content

Johnny Apple, 1934-2006

Todd Kliman

Recommended Posts


I thought I would share this sad news with you and your members.

I loved Johnny Apple's pieces on food and drink, and eagerly awaited a fresh dispatch from wherever his travels had taken him. He was a true bon vivant, a lover of adventure and sensual pleasure in all its many forms -- one of the last of the great eaters.

I'll miss him.

And I know many of the chefs and restaurateurs around town will miss him, too.

(The obituary can be found here)


Memo from New York Times executive editor Bill Keller


I'm deeply saddened to report that Johnny Apple -- the great Johnny Apple -- died overnight. As many of you know, he had been engaged in a long struggle with thoracic cancer, a bout that gave Applesque luster to the word "valiant." From his sickbed he hammered out his last words to readers (see last Sunday's Travel section), negotiated details of the menu and music for his memorial service, followed the baseball playoffs and the latest congressional scandal with relish, and cheered up the friends who came by the cheer him up. He was himself to the last.

Johnny leaves behind bereft legions of friends, colleagues, proteges and imitators, admiring competitors and grateful readers, and his beloved Betsey. He leaves, too, a hole in the heart of the paper he adored, and an empty place at countless tables.

Betsey says there will be a whale of a memorial service, probably in a couple of months. We'll pass along information as it becomes available.

Those who want reminding of a life lived to the fullest should read Todd Purdum's wonderful obit. We'll have it up on the website before long.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had no idea he was ill. This is really sad news and he will be missed. I truly enjoyed his travel pieces. They were always so vibrant and full of life.

My heart goes out to his family.

I didn't realize he was ill either. This is very sad. I always enjoyed his writing, as well as the appearances he made in the food/travel writing of others.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sometimes reading a Johnny Apple food section piece was like sitting next to the big, drunk buffoon in an otherwise quiet dining room…only you never knew whether to have his ass thrown out, or lean in closer to hear better. In an age when food writing seems to lurch from sepia toned to celebrity-obsessed, what always pushed me in Johnny's favor was the sheer physical exuberance he brought to eating and to writing – whether the subject was New York pastrami, Marseillaise bouillabaisse or Apulian Wine. I imagine that Johnny Apple sitting down to dinner must have had the same look in his eyes a linebacker gets just before blindsiding a quarterback: sheer carnivorous glee.

There’s no question that he could write about effete, elite dining with the best of the would-be poets out there, but he seemed to bring a particular zest to his pieces about the most proletarian foods -- Texas ice cream, cubano sandwiches, walleye, silver queen corn -- and these are the pieces that stick in my mind. Those and the boozer articles: wine, cognac, Armagnac; the man loved to get his drink on. The result is a back-catalogue that reminded you that food really is more about enjoyment than art, about friends and tradition than foams and presentations -- though he surely liked them, too.

As an ex-political hack – whoonce drove the already legendary and extremely polite Johnny Apple to the Milwaukee airport – I always thought he had the best job in the world. He seemed to know it, too, throwing himself into it so fully as to leave no doubt that he cared: for his craft, for our political system and, perhaps most of all, for a good meal.

The New York Times has helpfully assembled a list of his articles here, political and culinary, and they are well worth a detailed wander.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of his last reviews was a glowing one about The Inn at Easton.

For those of you that can't access the Times archives, here are a couple of selections:

"The inn offers a taste of Down Under food, which includes some of the most innovative cooking in the world, without the hassle of a 14-hour plane flight. Makes a man forget he ever heard of Outback Steakhouse."

"Any country restaurant within easy reach of Washington -- within a two-hour drive, say -- inevitably invites comparison with the Inn at Little Washington, the much-honored establishment in the foothills west of the capital. The Inn at Easton is no exception, but there is really very little resemblance, except that both offer cooking of a quality not often encountered."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...