A legend of the Austin culinary world has passed away, according to friends. Virginia B. Wood, former food editor and critic for the Austin Chronicle, died on March 2 in San Antonio after a long battle with illness. She was 67.
Wood was perhaps best known for her Food-o-File column in the alt-weekly newspaper, a weekly roundup of the latest culinary gossip, food events, and restaurant openings. Her insider knowledge helped usher in dining reportage being taken as seriously in Austin as any other beat.
She was a fierce friend to the Austin food community. She was often the first to write about benefits for members of the hospitality community and often lent her skills as a pastry chef to those in need.
Before taking up food writing in the ’80s, Wood supplied pastries to Pecan Street Cafe and made tortillas and desserts for Fonda San Miguel (she also co-wrote the 2005 cookbook Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years Of Food And Art) before launching a wholesale food business of her own. The intimate knowledge of what it takes to run a successful food business made her a sharp, but always fair, restaurant critic — although she never made excuses for poorly executed dishes or bad service (her 2013 blind item review is still a classic in the form).
During both her hospitality and writing careers, she mentored a generation of chefs and writers. The industry love went both ways. Last year, a bake sale drew an all-star roster of local chefs who pitched in to raise money for her medical care.
I was fortunate enough to get to work with her during my stint as the food editor at the Chronicle. I will remember her graciousness, her sharp wit, and her incredible lemon bars.