Xinh Dwelley passed away on November 17 surrounded by friends and family after a courageous battle against cancer. Xinh was 72 years old.
Born in South Vietnam, she began her culinary journey at 15 as a chef in a U.S. Army hall. In 1970, at the age of 19, Xinh married an American soldier and immigrated to Olympia with her young son, Bill. Never one to sit idle, she opened a stand at the Olympia Farmers Market to sell her famous eggrolls and in her spare hours, picked blueberries and mushrooms, and dug clams.
She eventually took a job shucking oysters at what is now Taylor Shellfish Farms. Her skills at shucking made history at Shelton Skookum Rotary's first West Coast Oyster Championship, when she came in first. Each year she easily beat her own records. In 1989, her first place speed was 3:08 minutes, taking Xinh on to win Nationals. In 1992, with five first place finishes, each faster than the previous years, she decided to retire from competing.
The family, employees and customers at Taylors also realized that Xinh had an amazing talent for cooking. It wasn't long before she was cooking up amazing seafood creations at their celebrity events. In 1996, Taylor's helped her open Xinh's Clam and Oyster House in Shelton. It quickly became a regional restaurant destination.
Over the over two decades of operating the restaurant, Xinh reached national acclaim, winning countless awards, including Honorary Master Culinary Chef, cooked for numerous celebrities and dignitaries, and was often featured in print and on television.
She continually gave back to the community by donating time, food, and talent to multiple groups and fundraising events. She hosted Shelton Kiwanis Club & Foundation, Mason General Hospital Foundation, and others for many years until she was forced to close her restaurant because of failing health in 2017.
After retirement, Xinh continued to give back in the community. Despite her long battle with cancer she published three acclaimed cookbooks. She hosted fundraising dinners at local events like Bluegrass from the Forest and Christmastown. Xinh received the Flame Award from Mason General Hospital in 2019 and was highlighted by Mason County Historical Society in 2021 as part of their Women Leaders of Mason County collection. She served as the honorary Grand Old Oyster of OysterFest in 2022 while hosting a geoduck chowder fundraiser for Project Share. For the last year she has shared her welcoming spirit and recipes at Fjord Oyster Bank, gaining yet more acclaim on King 5's Evening Magazine and being inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Washington State Chefs Association in 2023.
Her accomplishments are immense and astounding, but despite her countless adventures, awards and accolades, Xinh's most cherished joys were her family and the deep friendships she made in her life journey.
Xinh is preceded by her beloved husband, Stephen, and is survived by her son, Bill, "BJ" Gosk (Phyllis) and daughter Carrie Craighead (Ryan) and grandchildren, Braxton, Jasper, Orion, Donny, Makayla and Preston.
For the many friends that have been touched by Xinh's warmth, wisdom, and unconditional generosity, her immortal legacy will stay bright and true in our memories.
A service of remembrance will be held for Xinh on Tuesday, December 12 at 3:30 PM at the Skookum Creek Event Center, 91 W. State Rte. 108, Shelton.