Monday, November 28, 2011

Why should you salute the late Jeno Paulucci?

The New York Times had a tribute today to a man who certainly had an influence on American food: Jeno Paulucci, 93, of Duluth, Minn. It seems weirdly appropriate that Mr. Paulucci died on Thanksgiving.

His contributions: First, in 1955, he noticed the burgeoning interest in Chinese food. So he borrowed $2500 from a friend, came up with a formula for canned chow mein, and ended up creating the Chun King brand. He also came up with the Divider-Pak, packaging that kept the crunchy noodles separate from the sauce. He sold it to R.J. Reynolds (yes, here in North Carolina) for $63 million in 1966.

But he wasn't finished yet. Next, he founded Jeno's Inc., making frozen pizzas and snacks. He combined the two to create the pizza roll. After selling it to Pillsbury in in 1985 in $135 million, Jeno's Pizza Rolls were renamed Totino's Pizza Rolls.

And finally? He founded Michelina's, which makes ready-made pasta and Mexican dishes, in the early 1990s. He was still the head of that company when he died.

Read more about Mr. Paulucci's story here in the Times.