He’s become a household name, but few people actually know the chef behind the brand.
We’ve all had at least one meal from Chef Boyardee. The classic ready-made pastas are iconic and well known.
Behind the label is a whole impressive history, beginning with the origins of Ettore Boiardi, who became Hector Boyardee – the chef we all know and love. Boiardi was an immigrant who went on to live the American Dream when he created a whole Italian food empire.
Weird History Food took a look at this impressive career, explaining, “Chef Hector Boyardee was born in 1897 in Piacenza, Italy, not surprisingly with a very Italian name: Ettore Boiardi. Weird History Food will follow Chef from his humble beginnings as an 11-year-old apprentice to the iconic figure he is today.”
It started out when he was an apprentice at a restaurant in Italy when he was just 11 years old, prior to his departure for New York. Once he arrived, he landed a job at the famous Plaza Hotel. From there, he worked his way up the ranks and became the head chef. He made quite the impression amongst diners as Italian food wasn’t quite as widespread as it is today.
Afterward, Bioardi ended up moving to Cleveland, Ohio, where he opened up his very own restaurant. His food was very popular, and his customers were always asking to take home samples of his sauce. He and his wife would hand them out using old milk bottles.
Then, a lucky break came in the way of a local grocer helping Boiardi start canning his sauce. It quickly became a family business, when his brothers moved to Ohio to help him with his canning business. It then expanded when the production was moved to Milton, Pennsylvania, and there, the Chef Boyardee empire was born.
Weird History Food then added, “Hector took over a food processing plant and began producing and canning the sauce on a larger scale. He persuaded his brother, Mario, who was in New York working with Paul at the Plaza, to come to Cleveland. …And in 1928, the Chef Boyardee food company was born.”
However, there was one tiny detail to figure out. The name, Boiardi. It was confusing to some people – and that was beginning to affect sales, staff, and customers – so that is when the brothers decided it was best to anglicize their name to make it easier for others to recognize. And that is when they changed it to the phonetic spelling of their family name: Boy-Ar-Dee.
Later on, the company got sold to American Home Products in 1946, and then later it was turned over to the International Home Foods division in 1996. Later, in 2000, ConAgra bought IHF, and they currently own the Chef Boyardee name. Even though it’s now a household name, the people of still have very sentimental memories of Chef Boyardee.
Weird History Food said, “Chef’s significant contributions to Milton, Pennsylvania were never forgotten. In 2013, the town erected a statue honoring him at the entrance to the factory. …At the time the statue went up, Chef Boyardee had provided jobs for more than 10,000 workers in the Milton area.”
Below is a 1953 commercial featuring Chef Boyardee:
And below the commercial from the 50s, is the whole history behind the Boyardee name:
What do you think of the history behind the Chef Boyardee name? Did you know this already? Let us know!