Frank Liberto, the inventor of baseball stadium nachos (consisting of tortilla chips, jalapenos, and nacho cheese) has died aged 84 in San Antonio, according to My San Antonio.
While Liberto can’t be credited with creating nachos altogether (that dish dates back to the 1940s), the ballpark concession version of the dish was his signature. He started rolling the dish out in 1976 — the recipe’s linchpin was the slightly liquid cheese sauce, which, when coupled with special dispensing equipment, allowed it to be dispensed quickly for a ballpark setting.
According to a history of ballpark nachos from First We Feast, a canned version of the cheese sauce helped to standardize the nachos: the magic ratio is that for every 107 ounces of cheese concoction, there would be 32 ounces of water and 20 ounces of pepper juice to hit the perfect liquidity.
Stadium concessions ran in Liberto’s family: he took control of Liberto Specialty Co., which his grandfather Rosario Liberto founded in 1909, initially as a grocery store which then grew into a concession supplier, operating in malls, stadiums, and theaters.
But Liberto also went his own way, founding his own food production company Ricos, which sells the nachos (and other snacky foods) to this day.
The Ricos’ history of baseball nachos gives credit to game announcer Howard Cosell, for giving multiple shout-outs to Liberto’s creation in his commentary. From there, the snack spread throughout stadiums, and also made inroads into cinema concessions.
In short — Liberto may not have invented nachos, but he did invent this specific version of them, and more importantly, innovated it in a way that allowed it to spread and become an iconic baseball food.