Shirley Fong-Torres, San Francisco Chinatown’s culinary queen, dies at 64

Shirley Fong-Torres, renowned San Franciscan travel writer and chef, passed away at the age of 64 after a bout with leukemia. She was hospitalized in April for treatment and was briefly released to recover at home. However, she went into relapse and passed away on June 18, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

San Francisco’s Asian American community has been mourning the woman who played a prominent role in promoting the city’s Chinese cuisine, as well as Hawai‘i’s culture.

Karen Eng, who does public relations work for the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade, said, “To me, Shirley Fong-Torres was forever the ‘Miss Chinatown’ who enjoyed sharing her food and culture with everyone. Her style and humor was one of a kind.”

Fong-Torres was a household name in San Francisco for her promotion of the city’s Chinese cuisine. She served as one of the Californian delegates to the White House Conference on Travel & Tourism and founded the Wok Wiz Chinatown Walking Tours.

She was a graduate of University of California, Berkeley and the author of four books on eating in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Fong-Torres also wrote about Hawai‘i’s cuisine and was featured in Hawaiian Airline’s inflight videos.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu also expressed his condolences, saying, “as someone who fully lived by her motto to ‘live well, laugh more,’ Shirley was an incredible ambassador for San Francisco’s Chinatown, Chinese food and our Asian American community. Shirley’s culinary Chinatown tours made her a household name as the guide of our city’s best places to eat and she will be greatly missed by all of us.”

Fong-Torres is survived by her brother, Rolling Stones writer Ben Fong-Torres, among other siblings.

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