How Cleveland’s first celebrity chef made me the woman I am today
I owe my career to Chef Boyardee. No, not a can of Beefaroni. The real, honest-to-goodness man behind the can, Ettore Boiardi—groundbreaking chef, visionary businessman, savvy restaurateur, and by all accounts, a really nice guy who hung his toque in Cleveland on his way to becoming a multimillionaire in the packaged foods industry.
Like his eponymous boxed dinners, Ettore—or Hector, as he was known following his 1914 arrival at Ellis Island from the northern Italian town of Piacenza—was pretty much the complete package.
To begin with, he must have been a mighty chef. In an era when Italian immigrants were sneered at as “garlic eaters,” or worse, and their cuisine denigrated as smelly, impoverished, and even sinful, Hector made short work of the long climb up the ladder of culinary success. He started out as a 17-year-old cook in the kitchens of New York’s tony Plaza Hotel. One year later, he was a head chef, presiding over President Woodrow Wilson’s wedding banquet at West Virginia’s even tonier Greenbrier Resort.
Cleveland was a pretty tony town in those days, too, and local hoteliers wasted no time in wooing the Italian wunderkind to the North Coast. Hector arrived at the Hotel Winton, on Prospect Avenue, in 1917, where he commanded the kitchen and caused a veritable sensation with his exotic spaghetti dinners, which—much like sushi in the 1980s—proved to be a thrilling departure from Clevelanders’ usual Midwest fare. Continue reading at EdibleCleveland.com.