The Devastating 2016 Death Of Food Writer A.A. Gill

A.A. Gill, who died on 10 December 2016 (via The Guardian), was a unique voice in the food world. His witticisms, phrase-making, and oftentimes controversial statements landed him near-universal praise, even from people who didn't like him. At the time of Gill's death, broadcaster Robin Lustig tweeted: "Saddened to learn of the death of A.A. Gill, an outrageously talented writer with whom I almost never agreed." Such was the charm of this Scotch-English food critic.

Adrian Anthony Gill was born in 1954 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and from an early age, he seemed destined to be a critic. His self-described "first piece of criticism" was a rebuke of the script of a "Fawlty Towers" episode his mother, actress Yvonne Gilan, was performing in. He called the script "terrible," according to The Irish Times. Far from wanting to be a writer, however, Gill began his professional life as an artist but was unsuccessful. Writing wasn't even on his radar, owing to a lifelong struggle with dyslexia. Eventually, however, the pen found him, and he began a long, successful career with the London newspaper, The Times. It was in a column for The Times that he revealed to readers the illness which would eventually cause his death: cancer.

Cause of death and community reaction

It was a stark opening to a restaurant review: "I have cancer." Despite being diagnosed with what he described as a "malevolent, meaty, malignancy," Gill finished his mid-November column in the same witty and jovial manner he always had. It wasn't until a posthumously published essay — which can be read, in full, along with his illness reveal column on the website for the European Press Prize — that Gill went into detail about his struggles with lung cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, there were 34,771 lung cancer deaths in the UK between 2017 and 2019. Gill died at the age of 62, which is nine years younger than the average lung cancer death age of 73 the research institute recorded between 2014 to 2016.

Reactions at the time of his death were filled with praise for Gill's unique voice and writing style. Times political editor Tim Shipman wrote that Gill was "the heart and soul of the paper," that "his writing was dazzling and fearless," and that "Adrian was a giant among journalists" (via The Guardian). Anthony Bourdain, who maintained a close friendship with Gill, tweeted: "AA Gill was one of the kindest, most generous and loyal friends and supporters I've ever known. RIP."


It can be difficult to put a writer's legacy into perspective. A.A. Gill's longtime friend and Times colleague, motoring journalist and television host Jeremy Clarkson summed it up best. In a remembrance column for The Times, Clarkson wrote: "Yes, he was brilliant at writing serious stories about serious issues. And he was brilliant also at picking apart a television programme or telling you why it's a good idea to put nutmeg on cauliflower cheese (which it isn't). But he was at his absolute best when he was being funny."

Humor is something that is easy to take for granted. However, if we look back at some of Gill's best lines — a collection of which you can find at The Guardian — we can see that he left us a full plate of humorous quips. Even when it came to his cancer, he approached it with mischievous mirth, writing: "I've mentioned it [cancer] because ... some of you might take me seriously enough to book a table on a recommendation, you ought to know if there are any fundamental ... changes that would affect my judgment. If I were, for instance, struck down with palaeo-sidereal veganism, which I hope we would all agree would be worse" (via the European Press Prize). All writers leave behind them a legacy of words. For A.A. Gill, he left us a trove of richly worded, darkly humorous takes on the food world we love so much.