To Anna, food is not just a family business, it’s a family passion, something that she has known ever since she was younger and hopes to carry on for the rest of her life.
When Anna Boiardi goes shopping, she always gets a chuckle out of the cashier. “Like ‘Chef Boy-ar-dee?’“ the cashier says jokingly in reference to her last name. “Yes, exactly like Chef Boyardee,” Anna says with a smile as she begins to tell them about her family’s vast culinary history.
Anna’s grandfather, Mario, and uncle, Hector, started the company, Chef Boy-ar-dee (spelled phonetically, for easier pronunciation), years ago when the family came over to the United States from Piacenza,Italy in the early 1900s. The two utilized many true Italian staples, such as tortelli, prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, in their recipes.
“People don’t realize that there was a real family behind it, but also a really culinary history behind it,” Anna said. “They [the people in my family] only knew food. They started working at a very young age. They grew up in kitchens, and they spent their whole lives cooking.”
Anna recalls a time after her family had first immigrated to the U.S. that her mother took her all over town just to find a bottle of parmesan cheese. At the time, the traditional Italian delicacy was not something that was regularly sold at grocery stores, so she and her mom foraged the city just to find it – and that’s when her obsession with food started.
“To be honest, I just don’t think there was a point where I said, ‘I think I’m going to start cooking,’” Anna said. “It’s just sort of engrained in who I am and who we are.”
Ever since Anna was little, she has been influenced by great food and great cooks. Now, Anna has a cook book, an impromptu cooking academy, and a project in the works for new TV programming focused solely on food. Cooking truly is her passion.
“I never grew up with this image of drudgery attached to the kitchen,” Anna said. “It was always really special to be kind of nurtured in that way.”
Anna’s book entitled “Delicious Memories: Recipes and Stories from the Chef Boyardee Family” and co-authored by Stephanie Lyness, is a memoir cookbook, meant to preserve the memories of her childhood and her family’s great recipes and instill the passion of cooking in others.
She created Cucina Academy, offering free cooking classes to her friends, to further accomplish this goal. During the academy which is held one or two times a month at her home, each of her guests work at small cooking stations to contribute to a final dish. Once the dish is completed, everyone sits around her dinner table and eats what they have cooked.
“Its just fun because you get everyone in the kitchen–designers, artists, editors. Everyone is on the same playing field,” Anna said. “I’ve always thought food is a great way to bring people together, and the academy is a great way to bring people together.”
To Anna, food is not just a family business, it’s a family passion, something that she has known ever since she was younger and hopes to carry on for the rest of her life. She is paving a new path for herself and making her own name, thanks to the love, support and passions of her celebrated family.