It always seemed strange to say I had a mentor. It’s the kind of throwback term that describes a commitment, integrity, and generosity of time and spirit that you just don’t see any more. But that is the only way I could describe Steven Shaw who passed away suddenly this past Tuesday – he was my mentor and a throwback in all the best ways.
I met Steven in 2009 when I took the first every food blogging class he taught at the International Culinary Center. An award- winning food writer, he’d already made the jump from blogging (even before that was a term) as the founder of e-Gullet to publish books and write for Saveur, Elle, the New York Times among others – all still considered more legitimate platforms. I had recently left production and was looking for a way into the food world in general and writing in particular. Blogging seemed the only way open and I couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction than Steven’s class. I don’t know if I could adequately describe the joy he took in blogging and the possibilities he saw in it – it was unabashed, it was wholehearted, it was infectious.
Still, it was after the course was over that Steven really stood apart as a friend and teacher. With every new development, he was the first person I’d email with good news and nervous questions – always knowing that in just a few minutes I’d have his thoughtful and well-considered advice to follow. I thought this might taper off as he met new students and started countless blogs but it never did. A couple of times when Steven invited me to come back with other former students to speak to his current class, I questioned whether I had accomplished enough to merit the honor but was so proud that he felt I had.
I also knew that panel speakers were invited to join him at L’Ecole, and if there’s one thing he taught me, it’s to never be embarrassed about going somewhere for the food. Joining Steven for a meal was something like going for a light run with Usain Bolt – you can fool yourself that you’re keeping up but he is operating on a completely different level. It wasn’t just the pleasure he took in a 5 course meal but his ability to brilliantly post about it immediately afterwards that was so special. He loved talking and writing about food and he wanted everyone to be part of the conversation.
I can’t think of a better way to honor Steven than to blog about him as many have in the last couple of days. My heart goes out to his wife and son who he talked about so often and with so much love. I’m sad today but know that I’ll always smile when I think of him and feel an enormous sense of gratitude that I have a space – thanks in no small part to him – to write these words.
RIP Steven A. Shaw (1969-2014). Paz, luz, y progreso.