In a sad bit of news, Morrie Yohai, the man behind longtime snack fave Cheez Doodles — responsible for millions of orange-stained fingers each year — passed away last week at the age of 90.
The genesis of the puffy orange snack can be traced back to the end of World War II, when Yohai returned from service as a Marine in the South Pacific and took over his father’s snack-food business in the Bronx.
“We were looking for another snack item,” Yohai recalled in a 2005 interview. “We were fooling around and found out there was a machine that extruded cornmeal and it almost popped like popcorn… We wanted to make it as healthy as possible, so it was baked, not fried.”
Eventually the Cheez Doodle became a big hit for Yohai, who sold the company to Borden in the mid 1960s. Morrie, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, stayed on as group vice president in charge of snacks, which involved “sitting around a conference table with other executives and selecting the toys inside Cracker Jack boxes.”
He left the company when Borden relocated to Ohio, eventually becoming the associate dean for the school of management at the New York Institute of Technology.
Yohai also published two books of poetry and founded the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.
Says his daughter, “His life took many turns… He did whatever he set his mind to and he was incredible.”