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Ettore (Hector) Boiardi, the real Chef Boyardee.
Ettore "Hector" Boiardi (October 22, 1897 – June 21, 1985) was an Italianmarker-born chef famous for his eponymous brand of food products, named Chef Boyardee.

Early life

Ettore Boiardi was born in Piacenza, Italymarker, to Giuseppe and Maria Maffi Boiardi. On May 9, 1914, at the age of 16, he arrived at Ellis Islandmarker aboard the La Lorraine, a ship of French registration.


Boiardi followed his brother to kitchen of the Plaza Hotelmarker in New York Citymarker, working his way up to head chef. In 1915, he supervised the catering for the reception of President Woodrow Wilson's second wedding “Hector Boiardi, founder of Chef Boy-ar-dee Foods, one of the first packaged Italian food businesses in the nation, died Friday night after a short illness. He was 87 years old.” “His company was first called Chef Boiardi, but Mr. Boiardi found that customers and salesmen had difficulty pronouncing his name, so he changed the brand name to the phonetic spelling, ‘Boy-ar-dee.’” “He came to the United States in 1917 and worked at hotels in New York and Greenbrier, W.Va., where he directed the catering at the reception for President Woodrow Wilson's second marriage,” at the Greenbriermarker, in West Virginiamarker. 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, Ohiomarker, 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, Pennsylvaniamarker, 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.

Boiardi appeared in many print advertisements and television commercials for his brand in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. His last television commercial promoting the brand aired in 1979. Boiardi continued developing new Italian food products for the American market until his death, at which the Chef Boyardee line was grossing USD$500 million per year for International Home Foods.

ConAgra Foods acquired International, and the company continues to use his likeness on Chef Boyardee-brand products.



Further reading

Bellamy, Gail Ghetia (2003). Cleveland Food Memories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-886228-79-5

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