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Chen, Joyce (14 September 1917–23 August 1994), restaurateur, author, and chef, was born Liao Jia-ai in Beijing, China, the daughter of Liao Xin-shi, a railroad administrator and city executive; her mother’s family name was Wu. As a high-ranking Chinese official, Chen’s father was able to employ several servants, but both parents encouraged Chen to learn to do things for herself. She often recalled her mother warning, “You had better learn how to cook … so you don’t [ever] have to eat raw rice” ( ...

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Delmonico, Lorenzo (13 March 1813–03 September 1881), restaurateur, was born in Marengo, Ticino Canton, Switzerland, the son of Francesco Delmonico and Rosa Longhi, farmers. He attended a parochial school for a short time but was largely self-educated. A bright, hardworking, ambitious person, Delmonico emigrated in 1831 to New York City, where his two uncles, Pietro and Giovanni, ran a small wine, confectionary, and catering concern. Delmonico was a quick learner with keen business instincts; his uncles eventually made him a junior partner....

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Downing, George Thomas (30 December 1819–21 July 1903), abolitionist, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father’s Oyster House was a gathering place for New York’s aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith’s school on Orange Street and, with future black abolitionists ...

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Robert Lewis "Bob" Evans. In front of his restaurant in Rio Grande, Ohio, 6 May 2003. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Evans, Bob (30 May 1918–21 June 2007), founder of Bob Evans Farms, was born on May 30, 1918, the son of Stanley and Elizabeth Lewis Evans, grocers, near Sugar Ridge (Wood County) in Northwestern Ohio. In 1924, when Bob was five, the Evans' moved to the Ohio River town of Gallipolis (Gallia County) in Southeastern Ohio where the parents had relatives. Evans' parents were products of a Welsh immigrant community that prospered in the region. Along with an older brother, Stanley Evans established the Evans Grocery Store, which grew into a chain of sixteen outlets in the area. The Evans brothers established the first Evans Grocery Store in Gallipolis in 1924. In 1929, the brothers opened a second store in Point Pleasant West Virginia. Four other stores were established in Southeastern Ohio by 1941, at the same time, the family established another store in the Charleston region of West Virginia. In 1960, the Evans Grocery Store ceased operation. Before its run ended, the Evans brothers operated a total of sixteen stores in Southeastern Ohio....

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Harvey, Fred (27 June 1835– February 1901), caterer, hotelier, and restaurateur, was born Frederick Henry Harvey in London, England, the son of English-Scottish parents, whose names are unknown. Harvey emigrated from Liverpool, arriving in New York City in 1850. He immediately found employment at the Smith and McNewill Café earning two dollars a week as a busboy and pot scrubber. In the early 1850s he traveled by coastal packet to New Orleans, where he worked in restaurants and survived a bout with yellow fever. In the mid-1850s he traveled by stern-wheeler up the Mississippi to St. Louis. There he became involved in a jewelry business and a clothing store. His early training, however, sparked his desire to have his own restaurant. He became a U.S. citizen in 1858, and a year later he married Barbara Sarah Mattas; they had six children....

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Johnson, Howard Dearing (02 February 1896–20 June 1972), restaurateur and franchise pioneer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Hayes Johnson, a cigar wholesaler, and Olive Bell Wright. In 1902 the family moved to the village of Wollaston (now part of Boston) to enjoy the amenities of suburban life. Johnson’s parents were indulgent but demanding. His father, a firm advocate of an independent and ultravigorous lifestyle and fearful that his only son was being coddled by his mother and three sisters, took a strong hand in shaping his son’s childhood. Sometimes the results were unexpected, such as when young Johnson asserted his independence and refused to continue his formal education beyond grammar school....

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Lyles, Anjette Donovan (23 August 1925–04 December 1977), restaurateur and multiple murderer, was born in Macon, Georgia, the only daughter of Jetta Watkins and William Donovan, who owned and operated a produce company. While Lyles was an unremarkable student, she was pretty and possessed a charming personality that enabled her to bend people to her will. Even as a child, she usually got what she wanted....

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Moody, Harriet Converse (18 March 1857–22 February 1932), entrepreneur and patron of the arts, was born in Parkman, Ohio, the daughter of William Mason Tilden, a livestock broker, and Harriet Converse. William Tilden moved his family to Chicago circa 1867. Educated at home by her mother, Harriet later attended the Howland School, a Quaker institution in Union Springs, New York. She continued her education at Cornell University, where she earned a degree in English literature in 1876. Enrolling at the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia, she returned to Chicago after one year, made her debut, and married Edwin Brainard, a lawyer. The marriage was not a success, and the Brainards were divorced in the 1880s....

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Niblo, William (1789–21 August 1878), restaurateur and theater manager, was born in Ireland. Nothing is known of his father or mother, and little is known of his childhood. Niblo came to the United States at a young age and apprenticed to the proprietor of a coffee house at Forty-three Pine Street in New York City. After rising to a position of responsibility, he married Martha King, the owner’s daughter, and eventually acquired his father-in-law’s business. Niblo’s establishment, which he named the Bank Coffee House, became known for its culinary excellence and genial atmosphere, making it a popular meeting place for merchants....

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Bill Rosenberg. With the sales representative Michael Vale (left) during a fiftieth-anniversary celebration for Dunkin' Donuts. Photograph by Angela Rowlings, Boston, 1 March 2000. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Rosenberg, William (10 June 1916–20 September 2002), entrepreneur and founder of the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant chain, was born in the Dorchester section of Boston, one of the four children of Nathan and Phoebe Swart Rosenberg, who operated a neighborhood grocery. Growing up in one of only a few Jewish families in the tough, working‐class district, as a child Rosenberg was sometimes the target of anti‐Semitic verbal abuse and physical attacks. He left school after eighth grade to work in the family business, and after the failure of the business during the Great Depression he found jobs delivering telegrams for Western Union and driving a horse‐drawn delivery truck for Hood Dairy. Rosenberg's reputation as a tenacious worker won him a wholesale delivery route with the Jack and Jill Ice Cream Company, a pioneer in the use of refrigeration trucks, vending machine sales, and other innovations. His success in developing new business along the route brought him an office position at Jack and Jill, and Harry Winokur, the company accountant, became a mentor, teaching him formal business methods and facilitating his promotion, at age twenty‐one, to national sales manager....

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Shor, Toots (06 May 1903–23 January 1977), restaurateur and bon vivant, was born Bernard Shor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Abraham Schorr, a shirtmaker and cigar and candy store owner, and Fanny Kaufman. Shor’s father (who had his surname changed from “Schorr” by a hurried immigration officer), though of Jewish background, settled his family in a Christian working-class community of South Philadelphia. Under the pressure of the anti-Semitism of the time, the young Shor quickly learned to fight and to live by his wits. There, he also developed a strong sense of friendship and loyalty qualities that became inviolable watchwords throughout his life. His nickname came from his boyish long, blond curls....

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Stanford, Sally (05 May 1903–01 February 1982), San Francisco madam, mayor of Sausalito, California, and restaurant owner, was born Marcia Busby in Baker City, Oregon. (Some sources give her name at birth as Mabel Janice Busby, but in her autobiography she says Marcia is her given name.) Little is known of her parentage or early life, except that she grew up in poverty on an Oregon farm. Sally supplemented the family’s income by caddying at a local golf course and working as a waitress....

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Dave Thomas 1990 Courtesy of AP Images.

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Thomas, Dave (02 July 1932–08 January 2002), restaurateur and philanthropist, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of an unwed mother. He was adopted at the age of six weeks by Rex Thomas, a construction worker, and Auleva Sinclair of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He never met his birth parents, and his adoptive mother died when he was five years old, later replaced by three subsequent wives of his adoptive father. Thomas went to schools in many cities in the Midwest and the South as his father moved around looking for work, and he spent his summers with his maternal grandmother in Kalamazoo. He attended high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but left before finishing the tenth grade, at the age of fifteen. The many after-school jobs he held began with that of counterboy at Walgreen's Drug Store in Knoxville, Tennessee, when he was twelve, and included stints in several restaurants. In 1947 he took a job as a busboy at Hobby House, a family restaurant in Fort Wayne, where he remained, living at the YMCA, when his adoptive family moved on. Three years later he joined the army and, because of his experience in restaurant work, was given the chance to sign up for Cook and Bakers School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Thomas reached the rank of staff sergeant and was made the manager of an enlisted men's club, serving as many as two thousand people a day, in Germany. He was the youngest ever to hold that position....