Ettore Boiardi as shown in a 1953 television commercial
October 22, 1897
|Died||June 21, 1985
Parma, Ohio, U.S.
|Resting place||All Souls Cemetery,
Chardon, Ohio, U.S.
|Known for||Chef Boyardee foods|
|Net worth||$60 million|
|Spouse(s)||Helen J. Boiardi (1921–1985); (his death)|
Ettore followed his brother Paolo to the kitchen of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, working his way up to head chef. While working at The Greenbrier hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, he directed the catering for the reception of President Woodrow Wilson's 1915 wedding. He also supervised the preparation of the homecoming meal served by Woodrow Wilson at the White House for 2,000 returning World War I soldiers. His entrepreneurial skill became polished and well known when he opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia, whose name translates as "The Garden of Italy", at East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue in Cleveland, in 1926. The patrons of Il Giardino d'Italia frequently asked for samples and recipes of his spaghetti sauce, so he filled cleaned milk bottles.
Boiardi met Maurice and Eva Weiner in 1927. Patrons of his restaurant and owners of a local self-service grocery store chain, the Weiners helped the brothers engineer a process for canning the food at scale and procuring distribution across the United States through the Weiner's Grocery wholesale partners. Boiardi's product was soon being stocked in markets everywhere – the company had to open a factory in 1928 to meet the demands of national distribution. Touting the low cost of spaghetti products as a good choice to serve to the entire family, Boiardi introduced his product to the public in 1929. In 1938, production was moved to Milton, Pennsylvania, where they could grow enough tomatoes and mushrooms. Proud of his Italian heritage, Boiardi sold his products under the brand name "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee" so that his American customers could pronounce his name properly.
For producing rations supplying Allied troops during World War II, he was awarded a Gold Star order of excellence from the United States War Department. He also made cuisine for the Russian Army and was awarded the Order of Lenin for outstanding service to Russia from a civilian during wartime. However, with the advent of the Cold War, he was unable to acknowledge the award.
After struggling with cash flow, compounded by internal family struggles over the ownership and direction of the company in managing rapid internal growth, he sold his brand to American Home Foods, later International Home Foods, for about $5.96 million. Investing the funds in steel mills to produce goods for the Korean War was, in hindsight, an unwise business decision, amid a nationalization and privatization argument. Both steel mills and the government wanted ownership over the steel industry during war production. Boiardi lost money after arguing with the War Department over compensation for the wear and tear on the steel mills. Nonetheless, the American Home investment became profitable, because "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee" became the leading canned food brand name in the US market.
Boiardi appeared in many print advertisements and television commercials for his brand in the 1940s through the 1960s. His last appearance in a television commercial promoting the brand aired in 1979. Boiardi continued developing new Italian food products for the American market until his death in 1985, at which time the Chef Boyardee line was grossing $500 million per year for International Home Foods. Surviving commercials with Boiardi from 1953 are on most Kinescopes of the US soap opera Love of Life from that year.
In 2013, a television series[which?] resurrected the images from the old television spots during an ad campaign for Boy-Ar-Dee products. A fictionalized account of Boiardi's life was shown in one commercial where, as a child in Italy, he is cast out of an orphanage after being served gruel, being unable to accept the explanation "it's good for you", and resolving to study the culinary arts to prepare food people would enjoy.
He died of natural causes on June 21, 1985 at age 87 in his home of Parma, Ohio, survived by his wife Helen and son Mario. He had thirteen grandchildren. He is buried at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon, Ohio.
- UPI story (June 23, 1985), "Hector Boiardi Is Dead: Began Chef Boy-ar-dee", The New York Times, pp. Late City Final Edition, Section 1, Page 28, Column 4, retrieved 2007-07-11,
“Hector Boiardi, founder of Chef Boy-ar-dee Foods, one of the first packaged Italian food businesses in the nation, died Friday night after a short illness. He was 87 years old.” “His company was first called Chef Boiardi, but Mr. Boiardi found that customers and salesmen had difficulty pronouncing his name, so he changed the brand name to the phonetic spelling, ‘Boy-ar-dee.’" "He came to the United States in 1917 and worked at hotels in New York and Greenbrier, W.Va., where he directed the catering at the reception for President Woodrow Wilson's second marriage”
- "Chef Boyardee". Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- "The Man, The Can: Recipes Of The Real Chef Boyardee". Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- "history". Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- "Mario J. Boiardi". The Baltimore Sun. November 27, 1997.
- "Noteworthy". Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- Bellamy, Gail Ghetia (2003). Cleveland Food Memories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-886228-79-5
- Boiardi, Hector, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
- The Man, The Can: Recipes Of The Real Chef Boyardee, NPR.org
- Hector Boiardi at Find a Grave
- on YouTube