Food Facts & Lore

Cobb Salad, Once Upon a Midnight Snack

Main course salads are over 100 years old. Cobb Salad and Caesar Salad became the first salads to be served as a main dish beginning sometime between the 1920’s and 1930’s. Both share a similar origin story, one rooted in pure serendipity. Both attracted the attention of the Hollywood elite.

As a matter of fact, Cobb Salad was created at Hollywood’s Brown Derby Restaurant, sometime in 1936 or 37. One of the most prevalent accounts, though disputed, credits then owner Bob Cobb once upon a midnight snack attack. A friend who witnessed the deed, and savored the dish, recounts how Cobb scavenged the restaurant kitchen assembling watercress, romaine, tomatoes, chives, hard-boiled egg and chicken breast. The concoction was garnished with bacon and cheese and doused with dressing. The friend returned the next day and demanded a “Cobb Salad.” It became a regular Brown Derby menu item in no time.

As with other magnificent food inventions, numerous accounts exist that credit different players; a young apprentice at the Derby among others. All that remains, of course, is the colorful extravaganza dish that causes even non-veggie-inclined individuals to fall in love at first bite. As for the aforementioned Hollywood elite, it is said that the Warner Brothers themselves adopted the Cobb Salad, often dispatching private chauffeurs to fetch a to-go dish.

About ten years prior to this, brothers Alex and Caesar Cardini, who owned a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, produced their now famous Caesar Salad with the bits and pieces at hand on a very busy day. They meant to maintain their patrons’ interest during a shortage of supplies. The simple, yet delectable salad dish produced the desired effect and soon became an icon. Hollywood jet setters who frequented the establishment loved it dearly.