An American Favorite: The Origins of Chef’s Salad

Say the word “salad,” and most people are likely to think of lettuce. While there are countless different ways to prepare a salad, we don’t tend to think of salads as entire meals in and of themselves. That’s why the chef’s salad stands out from other salads. Unlike most salads, the chef’s salad isn’t made from a single consistent list of ingredients. It can contain hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, meats such as ham or roast beef, and even cheeses. Some chef’s salads even contain anchovies!


Who was the first person to come up with this unusual combination of foods? The answer, it turns out, isn’t so simple. Nobody really knows who made the first chef’s salad—in part because the recipe is so broad. However, we have been able to pinpoint a few important moments in its history.


The Ancestor of Chef’s Salad

Many food historians believe that the seventeenth-century English dish salmagundi is one of the predecessors of the chef’s salad. Salmagundi was a large salad that could contain any number of ingredients, including meat, fruit, nuts, oil, and vinegar. Unlike modern chef’s salad, though, salmagundi could also include ingredients such as calf’s feet and pickled herring.


The Modern Chef’s Salad

Salads similar to the chef’s salad started appearing in cookbooks in the early 20th century. The chef who popularized the chef’s salad we know today was a New York chef named Victor Seydoux. Seydoux worked at a hotel in Buffalo, where his improvised salads filled with heavy, filling ingredients soon became popular among customers. As remains the case today, the primary appeal of the chef’s salad was that it provided a quick way to eat a full meal.


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