Cheez Doodle Inventor Morrie Yohai Dies at 90

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Cheez Doodle Inventor Morrie Yohai Dies at 90Morrie Yohai, inventor of the Cheez Doodle snack food, died on July 27 at his home in King's Point, New York. He was 90.

For millions of consumers, the puffed-corn treats, coated in aerosolized cheese, are a childhood classic. From their lighter-than-air texture to their fanciful, exploded-noodle shape, they encourage a playful attitude and reward a simple palate. Yet, for Yohai, the crunchy, silly curls were also serious business.

Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Yohai graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. His first job was working for aircraft manufacturer Grumman, but he enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II. Eventually transferred to the Marine Corps, he flew combat aircraft in the South Pacific.

After the war, Yohai took the reins at King Kone, the Bronx-based snack food company that his father had created. Initially an ice cream cone producer, King Kone expanded into Melba toast and other snack foods; in the process, it changed its name to "Old London Foods."

At the time, Yohai and his employees were searching for innovative, new snack idea that they could sell to an eager populace. One day, while watching a machine that puffed corn meal and extruded it into long, snakelike shapes, they decided to try an experiment. Cutting the snakes into 3-inch lengths, they covered them in cheese dust and baked them. The final product, which Yohai dubbed "Cheez Doodles," was crunchy, yet melted on the tongue. The baking meant that it was healthier than fried snacks, and the lightness meant that customers could eat them endlessly. Old London had a hit.

Snack-lovers quickly embraced the new treat and Old London's sales soared, leading to a 1965 takeover bid from Borden. When the food conglomerate bought Old London, Yohai became a group vice president and chairman of the Old London Foods and Wise's potato chip divisions. Among other things, this meant that he got to choose the prizes that went into Cracker Jack boxes.

Borden eventually moved to Columbus, Ohio, but Yohai stayed behind in New York, living in what his wife Phillis laughingly called "the house that Cheez Doodles built." He became a marketing professor, then the associate dean of students at the New York Institute of Technology. He also launched the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, an annual event that is still in operation.

Yohai is survived by his wife, Phyllis, and a son, a daughter and a granddaughter. Perhaps most importantly, he leaves behind a legion of contented, orange-dusted smiles.

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11 Comments

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cbcircustim

This should have been given top billing over the gay judge over turnig the will of the voters and Obomam baby moma taking brats to europe. This man accomplished something!

August 05 2010 at 10:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
alfredschrader

At least this guy left us with something & not phony 600 billion dollar pledges no one will ever see.....Al-

August 05 2010 at 5:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
robekog

g-d in heaven is lucky to know him

August 05 2010 at 1:45 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
lthrnck68

Kid's favorite? It goes way beyond that. My mother just hit 96 years old in July. She keeps a bag of Cheese Doodles on theback of the couch to snack on while she's watching TV. Loves the white cheddar version.

August 04 2010 at 5:53 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
steffenjobbs

Cheese dust??? I thought it was just some orange chemical that approximated the taste of salty cheese. Eat a bag CD and everything it touches turns orange. Fingers, lips, tongue. The orange scourge. Well, I'm glad he became rich and lived a long life from peddling junk food. He was truly blessed. He probably never touched the stuff, himself. He probably told his children not to eat Cheez Doodles. When I was growing up, we used to call them Cheez Doodoos because of their log-like shapes. I preferred potato chips or potato sticks to those orange things.

August 04 2010 at 4:45 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to steffenjobbs's comment
HBS

sounds like you ate a lot of crap, judging by your comments!

August 05 2010 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CAPITOL CLOTHING

A very nice sucess story !

August 04 2010 at 4:35 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CAPITOL CLOTHING's comment
alfredschrader

The man was a genius & worthy of inclusion in the Inventor's Hall of Fame.....Alfred-

August 04 2010 at 4:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Tom's Mom

Raised my son on Cheese Doodles, he loves the puffed ones, now 23 and big has a horse. NOT in weight, but he is over 6ft.

August 04 2010 at 3:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rentens

gee whiz; how many people died from eating cheese its and drake cakes

August 04 2010 at 2:57 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
trmnatr2

A bag of JAX and a grape soda.mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

August 04 2010 at 1:52 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply