Losing A Legend — Joe Pollack

by Gretchen Inman

Last month a very special person departed this planet forever. His legacy will remain a part of the St. Louis food scene just as Jack Buck left his mark on St. Louis baseball.  Joe Pollack was a writer with whom I remember from my childhood growing up in Alton. Reading the St. Louis paper was like catching a glimpse of “big” city life. Some of the writings were foreign to me when discussing fancy terms like hollandaise, truffles, and spedini….this was the 70’s. Nowadays, I tend to do the terminological intimidation when discussing food but that’s only because the exposure to the global availability, travel, and time has brought me to that point.

In 2001 when I returned to the ‘Lou after twenty years Joe was still a permanent and regular fixture in the St. Louis food scene. We met at an event in the fall of ‘01 and he was welcoming, genuine and straightforward. (He suggested several of the professional contemporaries I should meet that were a pivotal part of foodie environment and would be great connections to having just left either coasts while feeling a bit of culture shock returning to the Midwest.) It didn’t take long for these people he mentioned to become friends and partners in creating awareness of the fulfilling lifestyle the food world brings. New to the organic and natural food movement it didn’t take long for me to realize the cultural movement and cognizant support of a healthy lifestyle was as important to St. Louisans as it was to the people I’d moved away from. But I digress…..

Mr. Pollack and I bumped into each other over the years and always managed to get a quick conversation in regarding new and the latest places, trends or just chatting about a great (or not so great) meal. I envy his longevity and vision. To have been present to witness the evolutionary process of pre-post war life and the decades following in a food oriented focus. To have been a part of the era of discovering classical French food in the 60’s and 70’s to the nouveau movement of the early eighties (when goat cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar made its way into mainstream) the late eighties and early 90’s of grandiose, multi-course, opulent dining to the fall back of bistros, taverns and casual eateries, and then the locavore faction of the new millennium, he’s was fortunate to have experienced all of this with open eyes, clear mind and tasteful focus.

We’ve come a long way just in the last several years returning to the basics of pure, locally grown and sustainable concentration. Caring more about our food sources than ever before. With the advent of social networking Joe obtained a global constituency as well as a reciprocal support network.  Healthy living is becoming a more acceptable way of life and the benefits of having quality as opposed to quantity in this economy has grasped the populous en mass.

Joe’s contributions to the culinary literary world will be remembered long after his ink has dried. His legacy remains in print for all time. R.I.P. my friend.