Ranch Dressing Did Indeed Come From a Ranch

Ranch dressing did, in fact, come from a ranch; and yes, the name of that ranch was Hidden Valley. That’s not, however, how it got started. It all began in 1949 in the Alaskan bush, where businessman Steve Henson — who played cook on top of his main gig as a plumber — came up with an idea to help calm down workers annoyed that they had to eat salad. His solution involved a mixture of mayo, buttermilk, and various herbs. The simple combination would come to save Henson and his dwindling nest egg after he finally launched the ranch of his dreams in 1954 outside of Santa Barbara, California. Henson’s dude ranch was essentially intended as a hideaway for tourists. It occasionally drew some celebrities, but it wasn’t the ranch itself that was the driving force. Rather, it was the dressing served on the salad. Customers started asking for bottles to take home, some in increasing numbers. In one case, a visitor from Hawaii asked for 300 bottles at once. The Hensons finally started Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products, Inc., and opened a factory to manufacture their dressing in larger volumes, which they first distributed to supermarkets in the Southwest, and eventually, nationwide. Finally, in 1972, Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products was bought by Clorox for $8 million and the Hensons retired for good.