Here’s What Famous Food Figures Look Like in Real Life
Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker and Jimmy Dean are all household names from food brands you grew up with, but who were they in real life?
Duncan Hines worked as a traveling salesman, eating his way across America long before his boxed cake mixes and icings made his way into our homes. While on the road, he self-published “Adventures in Good Eating,” a list of recommended restaurants he encountered on his journeys. He made his foray into packaged baking mixes in the 1950s, with most of the success happening after his death, in 1959.
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It might surprise you to know that Jimmy Dean started his career in singing, not in sausage. A talented entertainer, Jimmy Dean (not to be confused with legendary actor James Dean, who died in 1955) had several country hits before hosting his own variety show, The Jimmy Dean Show, in the 1960s. While visiting a local diner with his brother Don, he was displeased with the sausage served, and that sparked a quest for the brothers to create a better-tasting pork sausage. Psst! Try their sausages in our contest-winning crostini dish.
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Born and bred in Indiana, Harland Sanders was running a popular service station in Kentucky when he was given the title of colonel by the governor of Kentucky. He moved his operation to a restaurant across the street, where he featured his famous fried chicken. (Try our copycat recipe, here!) After closing his initial restaurant, he focused his efforts on franchising his chicken business, traveling across the country and collecting a nickel for every chicken sold. After Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) went public in 1966, the business continued to expand.
Wendy of Wendy’s
While Melinda Lou “Wendy” Thomas is the face and namesake of fast-food chain Wendy’s, she isn’t the founder of the company. The man who started Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers was Dave Thomas. He began his journey in the fast-food world working with Colonel Sanders at Kentucky Fried Chicken. In 1969, he started his own restaurant and named it after his youngest daughter, Melinda. As a child, Melinda was unable to pronounce her L’s properly, and so she was known as Wendy.
Betty Crocker was never a real woman, but she has been a symbol of General Mill’s commitment to customer service. The fictitious woman was born when General Mills launched its Gold Medal Flour jigsaw puzzle contest in 1921. (Love brain games? We’ve got plenty of them here.) The company received numerous responses to the puzzle, but it was inundated with baking questions, too. With each response, General Mills staffers would sign off as Betty Crocker—a warm, intelligent (and entirely made-up) woman.
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The Quaker Oats Man
Another distinguished icon is the Quaker Oats man. Along with the application for a registered trademark in 1877, came the image of a man wearing old-fashioned Quaker clothes. While it’s been speculated that the man on the familiar cylinder is William Penn, a Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania, it is insisted that the inspiration for him was drawn purely from the Quaker values of honesty, integrity, purity and strength. Regardless of the origins, we love using Quaker Oats in cookies, overnight oats, granola and more.
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Before Chef Boyardee appeared in the canned-goods aisle, there was Italian immigrant Hector Boiardi. After moving to America in the 1910s, Boiardi made his name in the food scene by landing a job at the famed Plaza Hotel in New York City. Shortly thereafter, he opened his own restaurant and a food line, too. His brothers Mario and Paul recommended that he use a phonetic spelling of their last name to make it easier to pronounce. Hector Boiardi’s likeness inspired the face on the cans we know today.
The legacy of Marie Callender’s famous restaurant and food line began in Orange County, California, in the 1940s. Marie Callender owned a bakery that delivered fresh and delicious pies to nearby restaurants. As her business grew, she opened a wholesale bakery and her own pie and coffee shop. Now, 65 full-service restaurants are in operation across the U.S. and Mexico, in addition to retail frozen meals and pies that are based on original recipes by Marie herself.