Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli, Sr., Chocolate Dude

Baby, it’s cold out there. At least it is here in the Midwestern U.S. where we’re seeing record-setting sub-zero temps. Brrrrr….

hot cocoa anyone?

hot cocoa anyone?

Hot chocolate, then, that classic winter warmer, is where we’ll shine our spotlight for this month’s Funny Names in Food post. But not just any hot chocolate, no. We have too much class to settle for say a Swiss Miss or—gasp—generic brand. And while DIY is best (check out food for fun for those reports), you can’t find funny names when you’re in your own kitchen and your name isn’t funny. Enter, then…

Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli, Sr. The chocolate man! Born in 1817 in Rapello, Italy, Ghirardelli grew to serve as apprentice to his chocolatier father. In 1838, Ghirardelli moved to Lima, Peru, where he established his own confectionery. He also started using the Spanish form of his Italian name, Domingo.

do you suppose Domingo ever spilled chocolate in his beard?

how often do you think Domingo had to wash chocolate out of his beard?

But it was the U.S. or bust and in 1849, Ghirardelli moved to California. His move was prompted by funny-named former neighbor, James Lick, who had come to San Francisco in 1848, bringing 600 pounds of chocolate with him. (Insert inappropriate chocolate-lick joke here if you must 😉 ) Caught up in the California Gold Rush, Ghirardelli spent a few months in the gold fields near Sonora and Jamestown, though eventually decided to live the life of a merchant in Hornitos, California. In 1852, he moved to San Fran and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company at Ghirardelli Square was born. The San Francisco Chronicle claims Mr. Ghirardelli as their fair city’s most successful chocolatier.

Here’s the fun part: In 1865, a Ghirardelli factory worker found that by hanging a bag of ground cacao beans in a warm room, the cocoa butter would drip off, leaving behind a residue that can be converted into ground chocolate. This technique–known as the Broma process–is now the most common method of chocolate production. Revolutionary!

you could read about the guys that invented hot chocolate here

you could read about the guys who invented hot chocolate here

Though we opened this post with the promise of hot chocolate, please note that this steaming mug of creamy liquid bliss was not invented by Ghirardelli (we’d look to funnily named Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez and King Montezuma for that story), though one must agree that hot cocoa made with this premium brand would be top-notch.

So Ghirardelli was an amazingly successful businessman, you say. What else can you tell us about this chocolate guy? Well, his first wife had the beautiful (and only just a little bit funny) name of Elisabetta and they had two children: Angela and Domenico Jr. Unfortunately, the beautifully named Elisabetta died young, though Ghirardelli Sr. went on to marry a Peruvian named Carmen in 1830. Their children were named Joseph, Elvira (a little bit funny—admit it), Louis, and Eugene.

Ghirardelli Sr. died in 1894 while on a trip to his birthplace in Italy. You can find him buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. RIP, Chocolate Man. We thank you for your commitment to quality confection.Seal_LLC (2)

About Liz

Owner of deLizious Food Communications. Projects include recipe development, editing, and formatting; food writing and editing; nutrition analysis; public speaking and cooking instruction. Past and present clients: General Mills, Green Giant Fresh, Hormel, Minnesota Beef Council, Minnesota Soybean, Minnesota Pork Producers, Norwood Promotional Products, Pillsbury, Tad Ware, and Weight Watchers Publishing. Mother of two young girls.
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27 Responses to Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli, Sr., Chocolate Dude

  1. amb says:

    Mmm, hot chocolate. Just what I needed this morning Liz, thank you! It was -40 C with the windchill when I woke up this morning, which is *amb runs off to google* -40 F! Whoa.

    Fantastic post as always Liz! Love the fact that the chocolate production method was discovered by complete random happenstance. Also love that I just got to say “random happenstance” in a blog comment 🙂

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to think warm thoughts and come up with an inappropriate “chocolate lick” joke – I’m thinking it will have something to do with that Taye Diggs GIF from a few months back … 😉

    • Arto says:

      Oooh, spicy Taye Diggs comment there, Amb! Whooeee, is it getting warm in here or is that just because I’m sat in a giant vat of hot chocolate?

      • Liz says:

        soak your pants (or shorts, seeing as you’re in California) in cold water to get the chocolate stains out, Arto. And I think a lot of the heat has been generated by Diddy’s final blurb. 50 Shades of Chocolate right here at BoFN!

    • Liz says:

      Thank ya’, ma’am! Will leave the Taye Diggs chocolate licking (ewwwww) joke to you. Perhaps you could rely on random happenstance for its creation?

      You’re running as cold as we are, but I think your part of the world is usually colder, so what’s killing me (second day of no school 0-: ) wouldn’t be so hard for you. But always an occasion for hot chocolate. Just like I’d always welcome ice cream–even in -40 (F or C) weather. Have a toasty day!

    • Dave says:

      That Taye Diggs gif is burned into everyone’s memory. I doubt it will ever leave. The weirdest thing is that the gif actually appeared in one of *my* posts, though it was an FNITN you had certainly contributed to.

    • Dave says:

      Fun fact for Am-brrrrrrr! (that’s my favorite name for a cold Amber):

      Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird was born in French Lick, Indiana.

      P.S. Do you like amber ales?

      • amb says:

        Pretty sure you spelled favourite wrong there, Dave 😉

        I like amber ales, but since I went gluten free a couple of years ago I don’t drink beer anymore. So maybe I should say I think I like amber ales, if I remember correctly …

  2. ksbeth says:

    well, i am happy that both ghiradelli and lick, brought us into the world of chocolate and for that, i will never make fun of their names. (at least in public)

    • Liz says:

      you say that now, Beth, but a public occasion could arise where you’d be tempted beyond your powers to make fun of these guys. Just sayin’, could happen 😉 haha, thanks for coming over for a chocolate party 😀

  3. wdydfae says:

    “. . . Liz’s latest is a rockin’ cocoa fest, chock full of choicest chunks of chock-licketty choc-lisciousness . . .”

    “. . . a fun and informative frolic down the forgotten byways ‘Frisco history . . .”

    “. . . Liz’s posts are like a box of chocolates. Yuh never know what you’re gonna git!

    “. . . a sinfully indulgent plunge into the savoury swirl of the world’s darkest, sweetest temptation . . .”

    “. . . she gasped both in shock and ecstasy as it melted within her, sating the very core of her being with its indescribably tender caress, its sweet, pungent cascades of pure pleasure, yet filling her with a greedy, bottomless hunger for more, more, oh yes, Yes, YES! “Give me more!” she shrieked “Give me more chocolate!!!” . . .

    • Arto says:

      That first blurb could be flawlessly sung in a sort of Dylan-esque Subterranean Homesick Blues verse. Poetry!

    • amb says:

      Diddy is so much spicier than me. Meow!

    • Liz says:

      oh goodness. Am blushing at that last one. Definitely not letting my kids read this 😉 (they never read any of it anyway–too boring if you can imagine that)

      Appreciate your fun phrases. Thinking we should make a game (Well, you can make it or maybe Dave. Too much work for me and Dave really likes written games.) where one side lists your blurbs and the other the post titles–neither in order. Could folks match your comments to the correct posts?

      Love having you here, diddy. Hope 2014 has been a dandy for you so far. Thought of you when searching for a name for this post. Was unhappy that I couldn’t unearth anything appropriately food, winter, and funny name-related and then shazam, a hit! Domingo emerged. Will keep turning up stones–you do the same.

      • wdydfae says:

        “Insert inappropriate chocolate-lick joke here if you must.”

        That’s just plain asking for trouble with the crowd you got hanging around here.

    • Dave says:


      Except for the third one, you know you’re gonna git an awesome post about a funny named food personality!

      Amb will be pleased you put the “u” in “savoury”

  4. Bonnie says:

    Great post Liz! And you got me up out of my chair and afternoon drowsy-fest to go on the hunt for a packet of hot chocolate. I figured there had to be one around my office …somewhere…and bingo, I was right. Not gourmet, and my ‘mallows are at home, but the warm chocolately goodness gave me a little boost that I am counting on getting me through ’til the 5-o-clock bell rings. I don’t really have a bell… and, there is a second packet I found and stashed in my drawer. Just in case. Tomorrow, I am coming prepared! Love the coverage of a “local” SF landmark/personalty! Stay warm out there!

    • Liz says:

      Thanks, Bonnie 🙂 Love that the post inspired a mug of hot chocolate for you. And I was teasing about it having to be fancy-pants. Swiss Miss works for me! Thought of you and the San Fran connection. Doesn’t get any better than SF for all things food.

  5. Love the post. Now, you do know that Ghirardelli’s make “Flicks”. No doubt inspired by his friend, Lick. Just a thought. 😉

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  9. markbialczak says:

    Fantastic Gharirdelli lesson, Liz. Californians may love his legacy of chocolate, bar none. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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