Unlike the fictional food icons, Aunt Jemima, Betty Crocker, and Uncle Ben- Chef Boyardee is real, an actual chef, and an Ohioan. Ettore “Hector” Boiardi was born in Northern Italy in 1897. The Boiardi family immigrated to the United States in 1914 and eventually settled in Cleveland. Hector was already a talented chef by the time he moved to Cleveland and decided to open his first restaurant “Il Giardino d’Italia” at East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue in the Little Italy neighborhood. Chef Boiardi’s restaurant was a success and customers expressed an interest in his spaghetti sauce recipe, samples to take home, and wanting to recreate various dishes. To meet customer demands, Boiardi packaged his product in old milk bottles to send home with patrons. The chef started charging for these “take home” products and eventually his packaged sales were greater than his normal restaurants. The family decided to change their business model and began focusing on jarring their family’s sauce recipe to sell at American supermarkets. Hector also changed his name and product to “Boyardee” so that it was easier for Americans to say. Boyardee eventually sold his brand to American Home Foods for 6 million dollars, however the brand is still as popular as ever and found in supermarkets around the United States today.
Photo via: NPR