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First, let's separate the man from his macaroni.

Unlike the fictional Betty Crocker, Ettore "Hector" Boiardi was real, and a real culinary prodigy. And it could be argued that his trajectory made him the archetype for today's branded celebrity chefs.

Some highlights, according to the Chef Boyardee website: Boiardi left Italy at age 16 in 1914; he worked in the kitchen of New York City's Plaza Hotel, where by 17 he was head chef; and he opened an Italian restaurant in Cleveland in 1924 and designed a canning processthe basis for a company he founded in 1928. He later sold his business to American Home Products for $6 million (it's now owned by Conagra Brands) and stayed on as a consultant.

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