The Man on the Tin Can: Chef Boyardee Was a Real Chef

Chef Boyardee is pretty much synonymous with cheap, processed pasta, but that wasn't always the case. The Boyardee empire actually started as an Italian restaurant in Cleveland that taught its customers how to make their dishes at home.

The pasta-in-a-can versions that kept most of us alive through undergrad got its start when Hector Boiardi (that's how the real life family spells it) started jarring and selling his sauce, and eventually had to open a factory to keep up with demand. They were by no means the first canned food operation, but they got so good at cramming deliciousness into tiny tin cans that the U.S. military actually commissioned the Boyardee company to produce Army rations during World War II, and the family's success played a big part in making Italian food popular in the United States.

Anna Boiardi is Hector's niece, and she's written a cook book that contains the recipes for the dishes that her family would make at the restaurant. Which is great and all, but none of them look like they take 90 seconds to prepare, which sort of takes the fun out of it. [NPR]