Happy National Ravioli Day! It’s a big day for Chef Boyardee and we’re celebrating with a look back at how this brand, and its real-life chef who serves as its famous face, transformed delicious pasta dishes for kids and adults.
Hector Boiardi was born in Piacenza, Italy in 1897. In the above commercial spot, Hector is depicted as a curious seven-year-old who questions why food that is supposed to be good for him tastes so bad. While we’re pretty sure most of the things that happen in this commercial didn’t actually occur, the truth is Hector knew he had a knack for hospitality early in life. He was an apprentice chef at a Piacenza hotel by age 11, and travelled to the United States in 1914 to further continue his culinary education.
Upon arriving at Ellis Island, Hector decided to stay in New York City and began working at the swanky Plaza Hotel. He joined their culinary staff and became head chef within the following year. Post-Plaza, Hector would continue to cook and entertain exceptional meals for hungry patrons throughout the country. He worked at The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, where he catered for the wedding reception of former President Woodrow Wilson, and opened his first restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio in 1924. The restaurant was named Il Giardino d’Italia, which translated to “Garden of Italy.” The Italian eatery was an overnight hit with foodies, and many began asking for recipes for Hector’s sauces. Rather than give customers the recipes, Hector decided to do it one better. He would start his own business and sell them.
Four years later in 1928, Hector launched the Chef Boyardee Company with his two brothers, Mario and Paul, in Milton, Pennsylvania. Why Milton? This small town has fertile ground perfect for growing tomatoes and enough room for Hector and his team to construct a mushroom plant where one million mushrooms are grown every year. The company name was spelled out phonetically — BOY-AR-DEE — to make it easier for pronunciation. Even the chef’s hat in this 1953 commercial reflects the spelling!
While Chef Hector Boiardi might have retired from the business in 1978, the company is still recognized for their passion for the ingredients that go into every bowl of pasta. There are no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives with Chef Boyardee. From spaghetti to beefaroni and their famous ravioli, every recipe begins and ends with meat, pasta, and a hearty sauce made from ripe, red tomatoes that is sure to satisfy every appetite.