Natural History of the Kitchen: Chef Boyardee Featured

Authors: Eat Me Daily

Natural History of the Kitchen: Chef Boyardee

chefboyardee1

Photograph: Diana Schnuth

Welcome to Natural History of the Kitchen, by EMD's Stephanie Butler. Each week, Stephanie explores the background of an appliance, gadget or product that helped to make cooking what it is today. This week: Chef Boyardee.

Let's talk about guilty pleasures. What self-professed gourmand doesn't love a bag of Doritos now and again? Is there a foodie out there so devoted to the cause that they can't appreciate a bag of M&M's and popcorn at the movies? I, for one, have a deep love for Chef Boyardee beef ravioli. Not spaghetti and meatballs, not cheese ravioli, not dinosaurs or Dora the Explorer shapes in sauce — just plain beef ravioli, cooked on the stovetop (never microwaved).

You'll need a can opener for this installment of Natural History of the Kitchen.

Ettore Boiardi to Hector Boy-Ar-Dee

boyardee2

Photograph: elkit

Like Orville Redenbacher and Duncan Hines, Chef Boyardee was more than a script signature above a brand name. Ettore Boiardi was born in Piacenza, Italy, in 1898. He immigrated to the United States, arriving in Ellis Island in 1914 and joining his older brother in the kitchen of the Plaza Hotel. The young Boiardi was something of a culinary wizard, working his way up to head chef and later catering a dinner for President Wilson. Still the youngest man in every kitchen he entered, Boiardi (now going by the name "Hector") grew his famous mustache to make himself look older.

At 24, Boiardi moved out to Cleveland to open his own restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia. His spaghetti dinners were so delicious that customers asked the Chef to sell them his red sauce. He obliged, first distributing the sauce in glass milk bottles and then going through a local cannery. By 1928 the sauce was so popular that he devoted himself to selling it full time. His first products included a ready to heat line of spaghetti dinners – just open the box, and pasta, sauce, and grated cheese were at your fingertips.

ravioli By now married with a young son, Boiardi moved the family business to Pennsylvania in 1938. He claimed it was to increase quality control over his product: in Pennsylvania he could be closer to tomato fields, and even grew tomatoes and mushrooms in his factory basement. At the same time, a more visible change was made to the Chef Boiardi line. Tired of having to instruct every new customer on the pronunciation of his name, and ready to make a big national debut, the Chef renamed his sauces and pastas "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee". [Photograph: Found in Mom's Basement]

The Chef's dinners gained even more fans during WWII, when his company made troop rations. The popularity of the Italian-lite food grew, and Boiardi sold his company in the 1950s for $6 million. He kept his hand in company affairs, appearing in television commercials and acting as an advisor until just a few years before his death in 1985. Since then the Chef brand has branched out into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pasta, overstuffed ravioli, and vegetarian options. A far cry from a meal at Il Giardino, sure, but a satisfying and comforting guilty pleasure nonetheless.

Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Commercial - 1953

Here's the Chef himself, in a commercial from the mid 50s that would require subtitling for the Italian accent today.

—Stephanie Butler

Tags: Chef Boyardee, Natural History of the Kitchen, Ravioli

Source / Full Story

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Login to post comments
back to top
Contact us to submit your food / kitchen related content.Web E-Kitchen.

Get Our App Now

Popular Recipes

  1. Hot News
  2. Tags
  3. Comments
Jamie Galloway: Work Out, Do not Stress Out
Signs The Body Needs Exercise
BBQ Baja Burger
3 Kitchen Ideas for the Holiday Wish List
How to make boiled eggs mixed
Pasta with Tomato, Spinach, Basil, and Brie

Search

Sign In or Create Account