Who Is Chef Boyardee?

You know his raviolis. You love his raviolis. But what about the chef behind the raviolis. Who is Chef Boyardee? What Chef Boyardee real? Let’s talk about it.

In an iconic TV ad from the early ’00s, a can of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli goes on an epic journey, rolling of its own volition from the grocery store all the way to a family’s home to be reunited with a small, ravioli-loving child. As a kid, I had so many questions. Had Chef Boyardee created the world’s first perpetual motion machine? Did all the can move on their own? And, perhaps most importantly, who is Chef Boyardee?

Is Chef Boyardee Real?

Turns out Chef Boyardee wasn’t just a mascot for canned ravioli—he was a real boy(ardee)! So, who was Chef Boyardee? Ettore “Hector” Boiardi, born in 1897 in Italy, where he was working as an apprentice chef by age 11. He later came to the states through Ellis Island and became a well-known celebrity chef, working at various fancy hotels (and even catering Woodrow Wilson’s wedding) before opening his own Italian restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1924. As for how the whole “iconic cheap canned pasta” thing started, Ettore decided to help out by producing military rations for the troops overseas during World War II, which kind of sort of made him an American hero. He even got a Gold Star for it. What a dude. He did have to sell the company soon after the war, though, in order to make sure that all the extra hands hired for the war efforts could keep their jobs. Again, what a dude! He died on June 21, 1985, and today the company is owned by ConAgra, the conglomerate behind faves like Slims Jim, Reddi-wip, Vlasic pickles, PAM, Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn, and, like, a bajillion and three more food brands. In short, Chef Boyardee was a real person.

What is Chef Boyardee?

Today, Chef Boyardee sells a variety of classic pasta dishes in both cans and those little microwavable cups—Spaghetti & Meatballs, Beefaroni, Lasagna, and, of course, both meat and cheese ravioli. The brand’s signature tomato sauce has always been sweet and sort of thin, but you’ll notice a lot of people online claiming that the saucy products they remember loving in the ’90s and ’00s are soupier and less flavorful than they remember. Whether there’s been a change of recipe, a decline in quality, or this is a case of misplaced nostalgia, we concede that Chef Boyardee products probably aren’t for everyone. If you are a Chef Boyardee person who loved the stuff as a kid and happen to give it another go, let us know if it lives up to your memories.

Do the cans roll on their own or is it all smoke, mirrors, and limp ravioli?

The short answer is probably not, unfortunately. I asked a friend of mine who used to work on the Chef Boyardee line if the cans propelled themselves and just rolled like in the commercial so that the line didn’t have to do anything and she just looked at me real weird and started explaining how canning lines work. So basically, Chef Boyardee cans are just normal cans. Bummer. But the real Chef Boyardee? A real persona and a real legend. We stan Ettore.

About the Author

Jessica Block

Jessica Block is a freelance contributor to Sporked, a comedian, a baker, a food writer, and a firm believer that Trader Joe's may just be the happiest place on earth. She loves spicy snacks, Oreos, baking bread, teeny tiny avocados, and trying new foods whenever she can. Also, if you give her a bag of Takis she will be your best friend.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *