The Real Chef Boyardee Was A Famous Gourmet
It’s pizza week at Cracked. We were very hungry when thinking up this week’s theme.
We asked readers to tell us about the worst pizza they've ever eaten, and we received some truly disturbing answers. Keith D. went to Italy, and rather than an authentic Italian dish, they gave him "four pieces of smashed white bread with Campbell's tomato soup poured on top, with the bits of one slice of Velveeta." Kyle M. went to Japan and ate mayonnaise and squid pizza, having been told it was alfredo and mushroom. "I took one bite and almost George Bush'd the entire restaurant."
Danielle P. gagged every time she went to a place called Sam & Ella's ("say it out loud"), but that was just because of the name, since the pizza itself was phenomenal. Elliot R. recalled his high school days, when a girl he dated baked a frozen pizza without removing the cling film first—which was just his way of leading up to saying, "Last week I made a pizza with a gluten-free crust mix. That gluten-free pizza made me wish for a slice of that plastic and sausage pizza."
The highest-voted answer came from Matt K: The Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit. You can still buy the product today, now marketed as the Chef Boyardee Pizza Maker and consisting of pizza dough and sauce, but when it debuted in the '50s, it included cheese (a teaspoon of parmesan, instead of mozzarella), and the dough came in the form of powdered flour and yeast.
Many adults cringe at the thought of eating Chef Boyardee. The canned food's only a hit among children whose taste buds have barely formed. But the brand has quite a history. Chef Boyardee, who ran the company, was an actual guy (older readers will know this, since he appeared in TV commercials for decades, right into the '70s).
In 1915, Ettore Boiardi was the head chef of New York's Plaza Hotel, one of the best hotels of the world. He was only 17 at the time, but he came with years of experience, since he'd been working as a chef since he was 11 in Italy. He first joined the hotel because his brother worked there as a waiter, and they promoted him when the head of A&P groceries came for a meal and tasted his food. That year, he personally catered the wedding of President Woodrow Wilson.
He left New York to start his own restaurant in Cleveland, largely introducing Italian food to the city, and he started selling his spaghetti sauce in reused milk bottles when so many diners asked to take some home. He shifted full-time to packaging food from there, and his company grew huge, particularly during World War II. And yes, he sold it under the name "Boy-Ar-Dee" instead of Boiardi, because people are more likely to buy food they can pronounce. "Everyone is proud of his own family name," he said, "but sacrifices are necessary for progress."
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