The January 2 issue of Vegas Seven will be the last in which Max Jacobson will appear for quite some time, we’re sad to say. It may be many months—nobody knows.
As most of you’ve heard or read, our chief food writer and restaurant critic was, two days before Christmas, struck by a car as he crossed the road near his home in Green Valley. Unfortunately, his head took the brunt of it, and as with all traumatic injuries to our body’s most intricate, fragile and mysterious part, just the prognosis alone will take time and patience. As of press time, he remains unconscious at Sunrise Hospital.
Max has appeared in each and every issue of Vegas Seven since it was launched 200 weeks ago. As you probably know, he usually does the lead review plus his Diner’s Notebook and, when called upon, spearheads special food features, such as our annual Restaurant Awards. Our dining team—editor Xania Woodman, and writers Grace Bascos and Al Mancini—will expand their duties while Max is recuperating.
Max is a great critic and much more. He’s a virtual encyclopedia of epicurean knowledge from having traveled the world, eaten at its best restaurants and intimately conversed with their chefs, and sharpened his senses with constant exposure to the origins, ingredients and cultures of practically everything that’s edible. And he translates what he knows in his own inimitable style. “I already miss his voice,” Woodman told me as we were putting this issue to bed. “You can hear that man’s voice in each story he writes. And every week I will miss it.”
Max is a voice of this city, a true treasure, and he has been since he left his gig at the Los Angeles Times after 15 years and moved to Las Vegas. New Year’s Eve marks his 14th anniversary here, as well as his 64th birthday.
We miss him in all the other ways, too. When Max rolls into the office about once a week, it’s practically an event—he’s a WENDOH-wide whirlwind of greetings, anecdotes and, sure, the occasional off-color joke. But beyond those generalizations, I can’t begin to explain in this small space the void he’s left since the tragedy occurred.
At 6-foot-3 and some 250 pounds, when Max enters a room you know it. But it’s his big persona that stands out most. Nobody can spark a conversation like Max. He’s a geographical marvel. Name a city, and he’ll tell you where to eat, what to order and probably even tell you a funny story about it. He speaks about a dozen languages, and it’s always a great sideshow to watch a Chinese waiter’s reaction when “some Jewish guy from Boston” (as Max would put it) cracks a joke in Mandarin. He has a photographic memory, which not only delivers an impressive amount of facts (as was once exhibited on Jeopardy!), but makes connections that’s given him a superb understanding of food and wine. Max is like a culinary bloodhound. I remember asking him to let us videotape him taking the 16-flavor ice cream challenge at RM Seafood. “Sure, I’ll do it,” he said, because he always says that, no matter how unprestigious the assignment. And sure enough, he correctly identified most of the flavors, from cardamom to cucumber vanilla (see video at VegasSeven.com/IceCreamChallenge).
You can’t replace Max’s many qualities. For now, our hope for his recovery rests mostly with a gut feeling. But there’s also one personality trait that keeps getting brought up around the steadily populated waiting room at Sunrise and in the growing scores of tributes online: He’s one tough guy.
About two years ago, he came into my office wincing and rubbing his shoulder, and he proceeded to tell me about this car that hit him while he was riding his bike. He’d been knocked hard enough that he tumbled into the street. He was in a lot of pain but was more concerned about not being able to exercise for a while than he was about driver negligence (“Nah, I’m not worried about that,” he said).
He’s always concerned about his health—a food critic has to do something with all those calories. That’s why, despite his wife telling him to stay home because it was too cold, he was headed to the gym that early morning of December 23, on foot.