Chef Boyardee's surprising link to this famous West Virginia resort

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Chef Boyardee's surprising link to this famous West Virginia resort
More than just a mascot, Hector Boyardee established one of the strongest food corporations in the U.S. in the mid-1900s.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Surprising as it might seem, the iconic image of Chef Boyardee that adorns so many food packages worldwide is that of a genuine person.

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Moreover, Ettore Boiardi worked at in West Virginia, a luxury resort a seeming world away from the streets of New York City, where he arrived at age 16.

Boiardi is seated in the front row, second from left. (Photo courtesy The Greenbrier)

According to historian Bob Conte, a young Ettore Boiardi, anglicized as "Hector Boyardee," worked at the five-star resort in the early 1900s as a member of its culinary brigade.

"At that time," Conte said, "The Greenbrier was managed by the same company that managed The Plaza Hotel in New York City — headed by a man named Fred Sterry — and they sent staff down to The Greenbrier."

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Boiardi was born in Piacenza, Italy, in 1897, and, at the age of 11, was working as an apprentice chef at the local restaurant "La Croce Bianca," peeling potatoes and cleaning the kitchen. He worked briefly in Paris and London before boarding ship for Ellis Island in 1914

The Greenbrier in 1913 appears much as it would have when Boiardi worked there. (Photo courtesy The Greenbrier)

Boiardi joined his brother Paolo at the Plaza Hotel, where he worked his way up to the head chef and supervised the preparation of the homecoming meal Woodrow Wilson served at the White House for 2,001 returning World War I soldiers. Around this time, he worked at The Greenbrier.

Boiardi opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia, in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1924, where patrons frequently asked for samples and recipes of his spaghetti sauce.

In 1927, he met Maurice and Eva Weiner, owners of a local self-service grocery store chain who helped the Boiardi brothers develop a process for canning and distributing spaghetti sauce, which quickly went national.

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In 1938, production was moved to rural Milton, Pa., where the Boiardi's could grow mushrooms and tomatoes more easily.

The Greenbrier at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, attracts a worldwide clientele. (Photo courtesy The Greenbrier.)

Boiardi sold its products under the "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee" brand because non-Italians, including members of the corporate salesforce, had difficulty managing the pronunciation.

Conte said Boiardi and President Wilson may have encountered one another a second time while Boairdi worked at The Greenbrier.

"President Woodrow Wilson and his bride, Edith Bolling Galt, honeymooned at The Homestead for two weeks in December 1915," according to Conte, "and, during that stay, drove to The Greenbrier, where they had dinner, which presumably Bioardi helped prepare."

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Boiardi died of natural causes in 1985 at age 87 in a nursing home in Parma, Ohio. In 2000, acquired International Home Foods, which continues to use the Boiardi likeness on Chef Boyardee-brand products, which are still made in Milton, Pa.


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