Fred Harvey: Taming the Wild West With Food

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Culinary innovator Fred Harvey at his finest.
The name Fred Harvey might not hold the same weight these days as say, Rachael Ray or even Bob Evans. But during the late 1800s, Harvey's name was synonymous with culinary excellence.

Operator of the first chain of restaurants to service the burgeoning railroad industry, Harvey set incredible standards for food and service. By 1928, he commanded almost 100 restaurants and 25 hotels nationwide. These "Harvey Houses," as they were known, enabled customers to step off a train in the middle of Kansas and, within minutes, enjoy a meal previously available only in cities like New York or Chicago. Harvey's strange notion that customers should be able to eat fresh meat and vegetables, even in the rustic West, changed the face of restaurants in the U.S. permanently.

This NPR segment, originally aired last Thursday, delves into the incredible business savvy of Fred Harvey and how this early day restaurateur changed the way we eat. It features Melissa Block and Stephen Fried, the author of Appetite for America, a new book about the life and work of Harvey.

Give it a listen. It just might make you hungry for a Harvey House.


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