Ettore Boiardi was an Italian-American chef, born in 1897 in Piacenza, Italy, and arriving at Ellis island in 1914. I am sure you have heard of this famous chef and have seen him as an early celebrity chef hawking his italian-style food products on TV. First, I must say growing up as a child in an Italian-American household his canned products never graced our household tables. This post is not an endorsement of his food product, rather a tribute to his spirit in the American culture as one of the first accomplished chefs to market their food products to the American public.
Boiardi, or more commonly know as "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee” because early marketers assumed people would not be able to pronounce his Italian name. It's important to note Chef Boiardi was truly a chef and not a made up fictional character like.. are you ready for this? there is no Betty Crocker! Boiardi worked his way up through the ranks at the Plaza Hotel in NYC to head chef, responsible for serving our presidents and the elite dining guests.
Later on in his career he would open his own restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia, whose name translated as “The Garden of Italy,” located in Cleveland, Ohio. His patrons would often ask for his recipes, so Chef Boiardi would often send home samples of sauce packed in old milk bottles. To keep up with the demand in 1926 he had his sauce bottled, and to ensure quality control - grew his own tomatoes and mushrooms.
In case you haven't been wowed as yet, Boiardi received the "gold star order of excellence" from the United States War Department for suppling American and Allied troops with food rations during World War II. He later on sold his brand, but continued developing new Italian foods and remained involved with promoting the brand until the last TV commercial in 1979. The first classic commercial for Chef Boyardee's Mushroom Sauce aired on CBS-TV May 22, 1953. I do get a kick out of this TV commercial!
Lesson here: During the my early part of my career as a chef I was called by my close friends "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee". Of course this greeting would make me think of the ravioli in a can, and not so much about the chef. The recent reintroduction of the vintage TV commercial from a mega global food company made me revisit the legend of Ettore Boiardi, and tip my toque in respect to an accomplished chef. From now on when called "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee" I will be reminded of a man with so much impact and not so much about pasta in a can.