Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chef Boyardee was a real guy. Who knew?

Chef Boyardee ravioli was a part of my childhood, much to the dismay of my mother who always offered to cook fresh pasta with homemade sauce. But her silly children craved the pasta in a can. Anyway, even though I liked the stuff I don't think even as a youngster that I believed this canned meal had ever been anywhere near an actual chef.

Well, oops. Turns out that there was a chef named Boyardee, though his real name with Boiardi. The spelling on the label was to make it easier for Americans to pronounce his last name.

Italian-born Ettore Boiardi arrived in America in 1914 at the age of 16. He worked in the restaurant business for a little over a decade before he opened his own restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia, in Cleveland, Ohio. He had a loyal following and customers often asked for his recipe for spaghetti sauce. This eventually led to an actual packaged product that was produced for Boiardi by a local factory. By 1938 the business had gone national and Boiardi was selling his products under the name Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.

The company was eventually sold and Boiardi moved on to other endeavors, but the brand name was retained and to this day, a portrait of Ettore Boiardi is on the label of Chef Boyardee brand products, which is currently owned by Conagra.

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