On November 5, 2017, Frank Liberto passed away peacefully of natural causes at his home in San Antonio at the age of 84. One day before National Nachos Day, his death is met with sadness and appreciation because Liberto is known as the modern-day "Father of Nachos," per the San Antonio Express-News. The owner of Liberto Specialty Co. and Ricos Products Co. introduced the United States' first concession nachos in 1976 at a Texas Rangers game. Liberto himself was born in San Antonio on February 20, 1933 and was a third-generation executive of the family's concession-supply business. He ultimately founded Ricos Products Co. In 1960, he took over at the company and not too long after, ballpark nachos were born.
The original dish dates back to 1943 in Piedras Negras, Mexico, just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, invented the snack from scraps in his kitchen to feed wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan after his restaurant was closed for the day. As the dish grew in popularity through Texas and Mexico, Liberto took notice in San Antonio and felt it would be a wildly popular dish, and easy to serve, at concession stands for events across the country.
The sauce itself was made from a secret recipe and had to be dispensed through a custom dispenser. In part, this is the reason why Liberto's snack caught on so well because he created the equipment himself. The Dallas Cowboys picked up the stadium snack in 1977 and once announcer Howard Cosell mentioned the nachos during a "Monday Night Football" match between the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Colts.
Fans all over the nation needed concession nachos in their own ballparks, stadiums, and courts. And that's exactly what they got. In 1997, the National Association of Concessionaires named Frank Liberto the "Man of the Year".
As Tony Liberto said in a statement on November 5, 2017:
"Our father, Frank Liberto, was a man of integrity. He led our company with an entrepreneur spirit and a passion that had an impact on his family of employees, customers, business associates and friends. His legacy will live on forever."
Frank Liberto's concession nachos were sold with tortilla chips and cheese sauce with special add-ons available, while the original nachos from Ignacio Anaya were sold with fried tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced pickled jalapeño peppers.
The next time you order a tray of ballpark nachos, remember to thank Frank Liberto for his contribution to our favorite game days.
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