Now Singing Her Praises

Virginia B. Wood, the Hill Country's 'unsung hero'

Most of the time, it is the shooting stars of the food business who command public attention -- the ambitious young chefs and entrepreneurs who burst onto the scene in a blitz of lights, camera, buzz, and street recognition. Certainly, some of these popular names have staying power and continue making worthy contributions to the world of food. However, like celebrities of any stripe, many fade quickly into obscurity, superseded in the fickle public imagination by the next wave of food stars.

In a refreshing change from the usual celebrity-oriented model, the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, along with its new partner, Saveur magazine, chooses to recognize and honor what might be called the opposite of culinary shooting stars. These honorees are people who, over time and without fanfare, make valuable and unique contributions to the Texas food and wine world, quietly doing what they do with quality, style, and integrity (see right for the complete list of 2003 award winners).

Among the distinguished Who's Who honorees this year is The Austin Chronicle's own Food editor, Virginia B. Wood, recipient of the Festival's Unsung Hero award. As the name implies, Wood has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote, publicize, and celebrate all aspects of food and wine in Central Texas.

As a contributor to the Chronicle for nine years and Food editor for six, Wood has expanded the Food section's scope and vision to include comprehensive restaurant and book reviews, profiles of Central Texas food businesses and personalities, food essays, a variety of annual local food guides, and a regular wine column. Her weekly column, "Food-o-File," is a lively and vigilant amalgam of breaking food news, knowledgeable opinion, and thoughtful analysis of the food scene.

In addition to her editorial and writing capacities, Wood functions as a local facilitator of food-related networking. She has an unswerving ability to nose out the people who are doing interesting things with food and then introduce them to one another and to the world at large.

After receiving the award, Wood said, "I'm very proud to be included in this company, along with a visionary like John Campbell and with someone so well-liked and respected as Mike Vilim. It means a lot that the award was presented by Pat Sharpe [senior editor at Texas Monthly], who's an old friend and someone I really respect. I'm pleased that so many of my Chronicle Food contributors were at the ceremony to celebrate with me."

So, to steal the festival's catch phrase, hats off to all the 2003 award winners and to Unsung Hero Virginia Wood for spearheading an alternative-weekly newspaper Food section unequaled by any in the country and for providing Austin with all the news, views, and schmooze about Central Texas food and wine.

[Ed. note: Virginia B. Wood neither assigned nor edited this report.]

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