The Invention of Nachos and 9 Other Astonishing Origin Stories
This popular salad actually had nothing to do with Julius Caesar; it was invented by chef Caesar Cardini in the restaurant at his Tijuana hotel, Hotel Caesar.
So who exactly was Benedict, anyway? There are two theories: One, a stockbroker named Lemuel Benedict claimed to have thought up the dish while nursing a hangover at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria in 1894. Two, Delmonico’s head chef Charles Ranhofer claimed that he invented it for the stockbroker LeGrand Benedict. Either way, Benedict had an awesome first name.
Nachos were invented by a (now-legendary) maître d’ named Ignacio Anaya, who whipped up the first batch for a group of hungry U.S. military wives at a restaurant called the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico, near Fort Duncan. He fried up some tortilla chips, topped them with some shredded Cheddar and sliced jalapeños, and served them as canapés. He named them after his nickname, Nacho, and the rest is history.
This hot sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut on rye has a couple of different origin stories. One claims that a grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky invented the sandwich to accompany his weekly poker game at Omaha, Nebraska’s Blackstone hotel. Another account holds that it was created by Arnold Reuben, the owner of a famous New York deli named Reuben’s. Either way, it’s one tasty and gutbusting sandwich.
Sylvester Graham was a Presbyterian minister in the 1800s, and a big proponent of the puritan lifestyle. To that end, he invented this rather simple cracker, and would probably be appalled to learn that people are today regularly defile them with chocolate and marshmallows.
Alfredo’s of Rome was (and still is) an incredibly popular restaurant in Italy’s capital. In the early twentieth century, chef Alfredo de Lelio invented a dish for his pregnant wife, which was basically just fettuccine with a whole lot of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano added.
Bob Cobb, the owner of the Los Angeles-based restaurant chain The Brown Derby invented the salad for himself as a late-night snack sometime around 1936. The Cobb — a combination of lettuce, bacon, blue cheese, chicken, and tomato — made its way onto the menu soon after, and is still popular today. He’s also credited with possibly inventing eggs Benedict (see earlier slide), and popularizing Thousand Island dressing.
This classic salad of apples, celery, walnuts, and sometimes grapes, lettuce, and chicken tossed with mayo was invented in the 1890s at the Waldorf Hotel in New York, the precursor to the Waldorf-Astoria. It wasn’t invented by the chef there, but by the maître d’hotel, Oscar Tschirky, who published a book of his own recipes, of which he invented many.
The origin of this dish is classic: Delmonico’s chef Charles Ranhofer (who invented lots of famous dishes in his day) perfected this dish after owner Charles Delmonico’s friend Captain Ben Wenberg demonstrated it for him. It was added to the menu as Lobster à la Wenberg, but was removed after Delmonico and Wenburg had a falling-out. It was such a popular dish that patrons continued asking for it, however, so Delmonico swapped a couple letters and put it back on the menu as Lobster Newburg.