Was Chef Boyardee a real person?

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Unlike the fictional product marketing icons of Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, and Mrs. Butterworth, Chef Boyardee, was indeed a real person. The others were created as marketing gimmicks.
Ettore Boiardi was an Italian-American immigrant born in 1897. He first worked as a cook at only 10 years old, while still living in Italy. At 16, he immigrated to America and took the name of “Hector Boiardi,” as he passed through Ellis Island.

From there, he worked at a number of high-end restaurants in New York. He eventually became a chef and wanted to open up his own restaurant. At 24, he and his wife relocated to Cleveland, Ohio and indeed opened up their own restaurant. They called it, “Il Giardino d’Italia,” which translates to “The Garden of Italy.”

As business boomed, he found himself in the enviable position of having customers demand his food so much that they wanted to take it home with them. To meet this demand, he began bottling up his sauces in old milk jars and selling the jars, along with dried pasta and packaged cheeses. He did this under the company name, “The Chef Boiardi Food Products Company.”

Six years later, he changed the name of his company to just “Chef Boyardee,” so it would be phonetically correct. He was tired of explaining the correct pronunciation of his last name and also wanted his products to be named something that Americans could easily pronounce.

By the late 1930s, Boiardi was selling his canned spaghetti to A&P stores, reaching a national market. The U.S. military commissioned Boirardi during World War II to produce army rations, requiring his factory to run 24/7. After the war, the company was sold to American Home Products in 1946 so that everyone working there could keep their jobs.

Eventually, Chef Boyardee food products were sold to ConAgra Foods, and the rest is history!

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