Friends and family honored Shirley Fong-Torres' life at memorial services in San Francisco on July 24. Her life and vivacious personality touched people worldwide with her books, television appearances, and her Wok Wiz company's daily guided walking and culinary tours of San Francisco's Chinatown and North Beach.
Shirley was born November 16, 1946 in Oakland, daughter of Connie and the late Ricardo Fong-Torres, and was a graduate of U.C. Berkeley. She was a teacher in Texas and California, a chef, and after working in marketing for Levi Strauss, she created Wok Wiz in 1985, offering tours, as well as cooking lessons. Her business drew rave reviews and quickly grew, and she built a staff of tour guides to meet demand. She wrote such books as San Francisco Chinatown: A Walking Tour, The Chinese Kitchen, Wok Wiz Chinese Cookbook, and The Woman Who Ate Chinatown. Shirley wrote articles for many food and travel publications and frequently appeared on radio and television including The Food Channel, History and Discovery Channels, and inflight for Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas Airlines and JetBlue.
She was active in many community groups and often served on the board of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. She had homes in San Francisco and Pacifica. She and her former husband, Richard Dong, were the parents of Tina Dong Pavao, and she was a vivacious, fun-loving grandmother to Tina’s two daughters with Matt Pavao, Maggie and Stella. Shirley is also survived by sister Sarah Watkins, brothers Ben and Burton Fong-Torres, and Sarah’s children, Lea and Jason Watkins. A wonderful brother, Barry, preceded Shirley in death in 1972. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to any of several organizations, including the Chinese Historical Society of America, the Community Youth Center, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Her family has set up a Facebook page for friends and fans.