Ettore Boiardi

Many of us who grew up in the pre-microwave era of tin-foil-panned frozen dinners and Jiffy-Pop stove-top popcorn well remember the canned pasta offered by Chef Boy-ar-dee.. but many of us probably did not know that the Chef was a real guy and the image on the can was his true-life picture. Here is a bit of his story with thanks to Wikipedia:

Ettore (Hector) Boiardi was born to Giuseppe and Maria Maffi Boiardi in Piacenza, Italy. On May 9, 1914, at the age of 16, he arrived at Ellis Island aboard the French ship La Lorraine.

Boiardi followed his brother to the kitchen of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, working his way up to head chef. In 1915, he supervised the catering for the reception of President Woodrow Wilson's second wedding at the Greenbrier, in West Virginia. His entrepreneurial skill became fine-tuned when he opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia, whose name translated as “The Garden of Italy,” at East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in 1926. The patrons of Il Giardino d'Italia frequently asked for samples and recipes of his spaghetti sauce, which he often gave to customers in old milk bottles.

Boiardi began to use a factory in 1928 to keep up with orders, setting his sights on selling his product nationally. Touting the low cost of spaghetti products as a good choice to serve to the entire family, Boiardi introduced his product to the public in 1929. In 1938, production was moved to Milton, Pennsylvania, where Boiardi was able to maintain greater quality control over his products. He even grew his own tomatoes and mushrooms in the factory basement for use in his creations. Proud of his Italian heritage, Boiardi sold his products under the brand name “Chef Boy-Ar-Dee” so that his American customers could pronounce his name properly.

Boiardi's company made and prepared millions of rations for American and Allied troops during World War II, and for his efforts he was awarded a gold star order of excellence from the United States War Department. After struggling with cashflow and managing rapid internal growth, he sold his brand to American Home Foods, later International Home Foods, for approximately $6 million. Boiardi then invested in steel mills, which helped produce goods needed for the Korean war.

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