Mary Brown Malouf, the executive editor of Salt Lake Magazine, died Monday after being swept into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
She was 66.
Malouf, who had been visiting the area, walked to the end of the scenic North Jetty in Humboldt Bay with her adult son Britt Brown around noon, when a large wave pushed them both over the wall, according to a news release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
“Both individuals were knocked off their feet by the surge,” the release said. “The male victim was able to hold onto the jetty rocks, however Malouf was swept out to sea.”
The U.S. Coast Guard, Samoa Peninsula Fire District and Humboldt Bay Fire searched for Malouf with ground crews, rescue boats and a helicopter. Crews located and recovered Malouf from the water about 1 p.m.
She was transported via helicopter to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Malouf, a Texas native, was best known for her food stories and dining reviews and was especially beloved for bestowing the magazine’s annual dining awards on the state’s top restaurants, chefs and food producers.
“There was never a time there wasn’t Mary Brown Malouf. Until now,” family members wrote on Malouf’s Facebook page Monday. “Today, Mary died when a rogue wave swept her out to sea off the coast of Northern California. Only she — perhaps the world’s foremost lover of Bronte, BBC mysteries and, of course, ‘Moby Dick’ — would appreciate such poetic drama.”
As the news spread of her death late Monday, Malouf’s friends paid tribute to the writer, noting her quick wit, wild hair, excessive jewelry-wearing and love of cowboy boots.
“I remember when we got our first dining award,” said Dean Pierose of Cucina. “I didn’t know her well and instantly we were like kindred souls with her irreverence and passion. Before meeting, I had only heard rumors of the deity that was Mary Malouf. We instantly became friends, and I always looked forward to her company.”
Malouf started as a dining critic at Salt Lake Magazine in 2006 and then became its executive editor in 2007, overseeing all aspects of the magazine’s production. She worked alongside her husband, former Salt Lake Tribune reporter Glen Warchol, from 2013 until his death in 2018.
The couple camped around the West and traveled the world, visiting England and Nepal.
On Tuesday, JES Publishing published a tribute to Malouf on its website, calling her “our North Star, undisputed culinary queen, and one of the brightest and funniest people we will ever know.”
The magazine’s managing editor, Jeremy Pugh, called Malouf a cultural icon. “Criticism is an art and Mary knew that,” he said. “Her writing and truth telling helped make this place better.”
Malouf was a former staff writer and restaurant critic at The Tribune, and previously worked at D magazine, the Dallas Observer, the Dallas Morning News and wine.com.
It was during her time as The Tribune’s restaurant reviewer that Malouf earned a reputation as a tough critic who inspired fear in restaurant owners and chefs.
“She was known as the woman who had helped build some restaurants and closed others,” said Kestrel Spring, Liedtke co-owner of the Tin Angel in Salt Lake City.
While sometimes harsh, Malouf was always fair, said Liedtke, remembering when Malouf reviewed the Tin Angel for Salt Lake Magazine.
“She was gracious, kind and had pertinent questions about ingredients,” she said. Before the review was published, Malouf returned several times to sample items on the menu, understand the ambience, and monitor the service.
“I could see her careful attention to detail, her genuine love of food and her focused personality,” Liedtke said. “My nervousness faded into quiet appreciation for a woman who clearly, despite her reputation as a hard, ruthless critic, was just a lover of food and ambience. Her eventual article was kind and fair and appreciative of what we were trying to create. I felt a kinship with her.”
Over the next few years the two became friends.
Through the years, Malouf developed similar friendships with others in the dining community. They remembered her as much for her coffee-loving, truth-talking, irreverent personality as her huge heart.
Her focus in recent months had been on writing about the impact of COVID-19 on small restaurants and bars and how readers could help locally owned businesses survive.
Earlier this year, Malouf’s image — holding a globe — was included on the “Utah Women 2020″ a mural, featuring more than 280 women from the state’s past and present.
Malouf is preceded in death by her mother, Polly, her father, Don — who died last month, a victim of the pandemic at age 95 — and her husband, Glen. She is survived by her children, Anna Malouf, Britt Brown, Kit Warchol and Sam Warchol, and by her brother, David Waddington, and sister, Helen Duran.