Ettore Boiardi

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Ettore Boiardi
Ettore Boiardi as shown in a 1953 television commercial
Born(1897-10-22)October 22, 1897
DiedJune 21, 1985(1985-06-21) (aged 87)
Resting placeAll Souls Cemetery,
Chardon, Ohio, U.S.
Known forChef Boyardee foods, head chef of Plaza hotel
Helen J. Wroblewski
(m. 1923)

Ettore Boiardi (October 22, 1897 – June 21, 1985), also known by the Anglicized name Hector Boyardee, was an Italian-American chef, famous for his eponymous brand of food products, named Chef Boyardee.

Early life[edit]

Boiardi was born in Borgonovo Val Tidone, Italy, near Piacenza, in 1897, to Giuseppe and Maria Maffi Boiardi. At the age of 11, he was working as an apprentice chef at local restaurant La Croce Bianca, although his duties were confined to non-cooking odd jobs such as potato peeling and dealing with the trash. He later learned more restaurant skills as an immigrant in Paris and London.[2]

On May 9, 1914, at the age of 16, he arrived at Ellis Island aboard La Lorraine, a ship of French registration.[2]


Boiardi followed his brother Paolo to the kitchen of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, working his way up to head chef.[3] He supervised the preparation of the homecoming meal served by Woodrow Wilson at the White House for 2,000 returning World War I soldiers.[citation needed] In 1917, Boiardi moved to Cleveland and became the head chef at the Hotel Winton, where he introduced a menu featuring Italian cuisine, including a popular spaghetti dish. His tenure at the hotel lasted until 1924, at which point he departed to establish his own restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia (The Garden of Italy), at the intersection of East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue.[1][3] The patrons of Il Giardino d'Italia frequently asked for samples and recipes of his spaghetti sauce, so he began selling it packaged in cleaned milk bottles.[4]

In 1927, Boiardi met Maurice and Eva Weiner who were patrons of his restaurant and owners of a local self-service grocery store chain. The Weiners helped the Boiardi brothers develop a process for canning the food at scale. They also procured distribution across the United States through their grocery's wholesale partners. Boiardi's spaghetti sauce was soon being stocked in markets nationwide – the company had to open a factory in 1928 to meet the demands of national distribution.[5] After spaghetti sauce, their next product was a complete spaghetti meal, including a canister of grated Parmesan cheese, a box of dry spaghetti, and a jar of sauce, held together in cellophane wrap.[2] Already then, the company was the largest importer of Italian Parmesan cheese, while also buying tons of olive oil, according to grandniece Anna Boiardi.[6] 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 to serve the factory's needs,[6] which reached 20,000 tons of tomatoes per season at peak production; they also began growing their own mushrooms on location in the plant.[6] Boiardi sold his products under the brand name "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee" because non-Italians could not manage the pronunciation,[7][8] including his own salesforce.

For producing rations supplying Allied troops during World War II, he was awarded a Gold Star order of excellence[clarification needed] from the United States War Department.[9]

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.

Boiardi appeared in many print advertisements and television commercials for his brand in the 1940s through the 1970s.[10][11] 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.

Personal life[edit]

He is the great uncle of American author Anna Boiardi, who wrote Delicious Memories: Recipes and Stories from the Chef Boyardee Family.[12]


Boiardi died of natural causes on June 21, 1985, at age 87 in a nursing home in Parma, Ohio, survived by his wife Helen J. Boiardi, who died in 1995, and son Mario, who died in 2007.[13] He had five grandchildren. He is buried at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon Township, Ohio.[1]

In June 2000, ConAgra Foods acquired International Home Foods. The company continues to use his likeness on Chef Boyardee-brand products, which are still made in Milton, Pennsylvania.[9]


  1. ^ a b c "Boiardi, Hector". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University. 11 May 2018. Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  2. ^ a b c Blitz, Matt (June 22, 2017). "Chef Boyardee Was a Real Person Who Brought Italian Food to America". Food and Wine. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Hector Boiardi: A Chef's Resume". Chef Boyardee. Conagra.
  4. ^ "Chef Boyardee". Cleveland Centennial. 22 May 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  5. ^ Frey, Bonnie (June 22, 1994). "Carl Colombi served up Chef Boy-Ar-Dee idea". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 4B. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Norris, Michele (May 17, 2011). "The Man, The Can: Recipes Of The Real Chef Boyardee". All Things Considered. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  7. ^ "Hector Boiardi Is Dead: Began Chef Boy-ar-dee". The New York Times. United Press International. June 23, 1985. pp. Section 1, Page 28. Retrieved August 9, 2022. 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
  8. ^ "Hector Boiardi of 'Chef Boy-Ar-Dee' Foods Dies". Los Angeles Times. Times Wire Services. June 25, 1985. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  9. ^ a b "History". Chef Boyardee. Conagra. Archived from the original on 2 June 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  10. ^ rwells2265 (24 May 2007). "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee commercial - 1953". Retrieved 10 August 2018 – via YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Namzso1 (28 September 2006). "Vintage Chef Boyardee Commercial". Archived from the original on 2021-12-14. Retrieved 10 August 2018 – via YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Kattalia, Kathryn (May 6, 2011). "Chef Boyardee's grand-niece Anna Boiardi reveals family recipes with new cookbook". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  13. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick N. (November 27, 2007). "Mario J. Boiardi". The Baltimore Sun. p. B6.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bellamy, Gail Ghetia (2003). Cleveland Food Memories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-886228-79-5

External links[edit]