The Mysterious Origin Of Cobb Salad

By calling for a wide variety of ingredients from hard-boiled eggs to blue cheese to bacon to avocado, the Cobb salad can be one of the heartiest options on the lunch menu. Simply put, Cobb salad is one of those large yet simple salads that everyone needs to know how to make.

Its iconic nature also means chefs often put their own spins on it. Celebrity chef and author Ina Garten, for example, created a lobster Cobb salad recipe that swaps in the seafood instead of chicken, per Barefoot Contessa. And while Garten's salad is dressed with a simple mustard lemon vinaigrette, recipe developer Susan Olayinka of The Flexible Fridge puts a further twist on the lobster Cobb by calling for a miso dressing to amp up the savoriness.

But where does this classic salad come from? While the true beginnings of the Cobb salad are shrouded in mystery, this dish's origin story is almost certainly the stuff of Hollywood legend — literally.

The salad's true beginnings: Bob Cobb's hobnobbing mob

Regardless of who prepared the first Cobb salad, sources seem to agree that the "Cobb" in question is one particular man: The incredibly named Bob Cobb. So who was this rhyming-named salad progenitor?

In the 1930s, Robert Cobb managed the Brown Derby, a beloved small chain restaurant that has since completely disappeared. The original Brown Derby building was shaped like a giant brown hat and was a "playground for Hollywood royalty," per Finding Lost Angeles: Big names like Cary Grant, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Stewart, and Clark Gable were often seen at the restaurant.

As the salad legend goes, in 1937, either Cobb himself or his chef Robert Kreis needed to prepare a meal for staff after a long night of dinner service. Whichever man truly created the salad, he simply combined menu leftovers like roast chicken, eggs, Roquefort cheese, bacon, and the restaurant's signature French dressing into a giant salad, per the Wall Street Journal. Cobb's friend, Hollywood showman Sid Grauman, was reportedly at the restaurant late that night and was intrigued by the new creation, so he asked for it at lunch the next day. Another legend holds that Kreis had actually created the salad years earlier in Cobb's honor (via Observer). However it came about, it was a massive hit. And in fact, the Cobb salad isn't the Brown Derby's only culinary claim to fame: The actress and diplomat Shirley Temple claimed that her namesake mocktail was invented there, too.