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Food Writer and Cookbook Author William Rice Dies at 77

The storied culinary journalist worked at outlets around the country

William Rice.
William Rice.
Chicago Tribune

A longtime food and wine writer who spent time working at publications such as the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and Food & Wine died Sunday, according to the Tribune. William Rice, who worked at the Chicago paper for 17 years, suffered from a progressive brain disorder called Lewy body dementia, his wife Jill Van Cleave Rice told the Post. He was 77.

Rice attended the University of Virginia and spent time in the Navy before graduating with a master's degree from Columbia University's journalism school. He landed a job at the Post, where he became the paper's first restaurant critic, a role he held for two years along with his duties writing editorials, reporting, and editing. In 1969, he moved to France and earned a certificate from Le Cordon Bleu.

Rice returned to work the Washington Post and serve as executive food editor from 1972 to 1980. His range of reporting at the paper covered ahead-of-his-time topics including kitchen gadgets and the rising cost of food, plus "gastronomic trends such as 'pan-Asian' cooking.'" After his time with the Post, Rice moved on to spend five years as editor-in-chief of Food & Wine.

In 1986, he moved to Chicago and landed at the Tribune, where he reported on food and wine until his retirement in 2003. In Chicago, Rice garnered enough respect to earn a menu item named after him at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse. Following his death, former editor Gerould W. Kern said the writer was a "consummate professional."

"His deep personal experience in cooking and tasting gave us great credibility and connection with our readers," Kern said in a statement provided to the Tribune. "His work anticipated and helped accelerate the widespread interest in fine cuisine in Chicago. In many ways, he prepared the way."

Rice also wrote two books, Feasts of Wine and Food and Steak Lover's Cookbook. In its review of the latter, Publisher's Weekly captured captured the essence of why he was one of the standouts in his field: a deep love of food and writing. "Sometimes it's hard to tell whether food journalist Rice gets greater pleasure from writing these meaty monosyllables or from eating the cuts of beef they name," the review reads.

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