February 7, 2007

Chef Boyardee

And the man behind the brand is...
Hector Boiardi

Hector Boiardi immigrated to the United States from northern Italy in 1914 at the age of 17. He already had six years of experience working in kitchens in his homeland and had no problem lining up a job as a chef at New York’s Plaza Hotel, where his brother worked as a waiter, despite his young age. Word of Boiardi’s skill spread rapidly and he was soon called upon to cater President Woodrow Wilson’s wedding reception at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.

In 1929 Boiardi migrated to Cleveland, Ohio and opened a small restaurant of his own. Soon he was sending home bottles of his tomato sauces to customers who wanted to take that special Boiardi taste with them. When he heard that the flavor did not translate to kitchen tables he started including a package of his special blend of cheeses. Then he added a package of uncooked spaghetti. His home Italian Spaghetti Dinners were the talk of Cleveland.

Boiardi began marketing his spaghetti dinners and other specialty dishes to neighboring stores. Soon he was spending more and more time selling his new line of products. To maintain his restaurant Boiardi formed a company with his brothers Richard and Mario to manage the burgeoning enterprise. But while his foods were popular, his name was not. Even his sales representatives had difficulty pronouncing the name correctly. Reluctantly, Hector Boiardi changed the brand name to spell phonetically: Boy-ar-dee. The national launch was under way.

In 1938 Boiardi moved his operations to Milton, Pennsylvania where the former Susquehanna Silk Mill was transformed into an Italian wonderland of canned pastas. Boiardi’s canned foods were an important ration for Allied troops in World War II and his Americanized name became well-known enough to sell the company for $6 million after the war. Hector Boiardi remained an advisor in the canned pasta business until his death at the age of 87 in 1985.

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