Goodbye Grace Ann Walden

Grace Ann Walden, former food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, has died

Grace Ann Walden, food columnist and spitfire, died in June 2015, unexpectedly.
Grace Ann Walden, food columnist and spitfire, died in June 2015, unexpectedly.
Grace Ann Walden, food columnist and spitfire, died in June 2015, unexpectedly.
Grace Ann Walden, food columnist and spitfire, died in June 2015, unexpectedly. Photo from Twitter.

RIP Grace Ann Walden: The sassy, brassy Bay Area food writer died on Friday. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in the Bay Area food world who hadn’t had a run-in with Grace Ann Walden.

The former Chronicle food writer pretty much invented a style of gossipy food news in her long-running “Inside Scoop” column that many of us have emulated over the years. You just knew she knew all the best dirt, the juiciest news and where everyone’s skeletons lurked — and she wasn’t afraid to use it. Brassy, sassy and yeah, a little insane, she had a huge part in inspiring me to do BiteClub way back in 2005.

My heart broke a little when she was “let go” from the Chron right around the time I launched in 2006. But I vowed to keep her writing spirit alive in my column.

Not long after, I took one of her legendary food tours of Little Italy, tasting cookies at neighborhood bakeries and shuffling our little group in the back door of a local butcher (way before that was a cool thing to do). At the end of the tour we sat down for a meal together, and I realized that I wanted to be Grace.

I wanted to be that wild and unruly food writer who always had her finger right on the pulse of the local food scene. (It didn’t hurt that she was a red head to boot).

Over the years, the Inimitable Grace Ann would rail against one or another of us local food writers for some perceived slight. Trust me, we all got it from Grace. But she’d cool down, and let bygones be bygones eventually. It was a bit of a badge of honor to have her write one of her scathing emails to you.

Even so, a while back I volunteered to help her create the Yummy Report, just when she was just getting her feet wet in the digital world, and wanted to do a newsletter to send to her fans. She found someone else, but I always regretted that I didn’t get to work with her on something, though no doubt we Queen Bees would have killed each other.

All I can say is that without Grace, the local food scene will miss the peculiar and wonderful awesome sauce that she always brought to the table. Here’s a cheers to you GAW. I owe a lot to you.

(Grace loved her dogs, Bruno and Tinkerbell (who are now looking for a home at the Novato Humane Society), and all of us hope someone can help them out.)

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5 thoughts on “Goodbye Grace Ann Walden

  1. Tough words from Grace Anne were mostly fair and frequently delivered with a wink. She wanted to always be getting better – and you should too! We started our conversation about food and beer in the early 90’s. I’m grateful I ‘found’ her again a couple of years ago in one of my bars – she loved our dark wheat with grilled artichoke. How’z the pulled pork..? “Dean, start over, you can do it”!!

  2. 2003. At the opening party for Town Hall in SF, Grace was in her element. Seated centrally in the bar of the packed house of who’s who in the restaurant scene, she held court. At some point she introduced me to Maker’s Mark Manhattans while sparing with Willie Brown about six seats down. She had him on the run which was a hard thing to do.
    We all could use a little Grace from time to time.

  3. Grace Ann Walden was an institution. She knew everyone in the food scene and loved the business. She wrote, networked and inspired and kept restaurant folks on their toes. She will be missed and its hard to imagine anyone filling her shoes in our industry these days. I remember meeting her at the opening of Miss Pearls jam House with Julie Ring and she was very encouraging about my design yet honest about every detail. Like I say she kept us on our toes. So sad to lose a legendary local foodie.

  4. I met GraceAnn back in the ’80s. She was like a whirlwind that blew in and out of my life with great frequency.
    Because she liked my writing she took it upon herself to promote it. I was ever grateful.
    I had hoped her recent knee replacement would give her a new lease on life. That was not to be and now many of us will miss this wild and wonderful lady.

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