Elka Gilmore: 1960-2019

A Founder of WCR - Women Chefs & Restaurateurs

The life of celebrated, extraordinarily talented chef, Elka Gilmore, a San Francisco dame 1996-1998, ended on July 6, 2019 at the CPMC Van Ness hospital. She suffered cardiac arrest due to ongoing medical conditions. Work injuries and breast cancer marked the start of failing health; she lived with caretakers during her last years.


In 1991, San Francisco’s Miyako Hotel gave the restaurant she created for them her name. Those of us who dined at ELKA’S are not soon to forget her magical, original touch.


Generously, she provided a venue at Elka’s for early fundraising efforts by Les Dames d’Escoffier/San Francisco.


Elka’s history was well traveled and always food focused.


Texas born on March 17, 1960, she got her career start at age 11, washing dishes in a café. At 16, she elected to live with her grandmother in Wisconsin, and while going to school; she also worked in various restaurants. When the chef quit at one, she was promoted to that job as a teenager.


At 18, she moved to Boston, then New York City, working as a chef en route. To climb the ladder of success, she decided to hone her skills and headed for Europe. Here she trained under gifted chefs as an apprentis/commis, mostly in south of France including the illustrious La Colombe d’Or and Cotignac.


On returning to the US in 1982, she landed in Los Angeles and worked in six different restaurants until she came north to San Francisco.


While here, she was a founding member, in 1993, of WCR (Women Chefs’ & Restaurateurs), along with SF dames Barbara Tropp and Joyce Goldstein.


In 1995, Elka returned to New York City with Omni Berkshire Place Hotel to head their Coaching Restaurant. Three years later she came back to San Francisco to open her own Oodles Bistro.


Following were difficult times exacerbated by serious health issues that made restaurant work physically too difficult.


Creating beautiful, delicious, often playful food was Elka’s natural genius. Her hospitable nature was infectious. She is remembered with great fondness.


~Jerry Di Vecchi


A memorial service is going to be held on Saturday October 19 from 2 – 5 pm at:

NEMA ‘s Energy Solarium 
8 – 10th St
San Francisco, CA  94103 

There is parking on site in the garage for a fee, and Bart stops are quite nearby. This is the last place Elka was living. For details contact: Jennie K. Curtis at [email protected]


Gifts in her honor can be made to:

· Contemplative Outreach of Colorado Snowmass – [email protected]

· Project Open Hand – openhand.org

· Cavalier Rescue – cavalierrescueusa.org

· Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Scholarship fund – womenchefs.org


New York Times article on Elka Gilmore

Photo credit for Elka Gilmore image on home page: Jim Wilson, New York Times