Marshall Pellar, a lifelong inventor who moved to La Jolla in 1967 to retire at age 42 but ended up founding Su Casa Restaurant, died May 6 at age 83.
“He was brilliant, a great humanitarian,” said La Jolla Realtor Ed Mracek. “He had a wicked sense of humor--he was a real jokester.”’
“He changed everyone who came in contact with him by his entrepreneurial example,” said Hans Newman, former Su Casa manager. “If he had a vision - he saw it through.”
“My dad was an important business man in the community,” said his daughter, Nina Pellar Le Baron. “His energy was an inspiration to many. He mentored so many young people who came through the restaurant.”
A mechanical engineer and chemical scientist who graduated from Purdue University with honors and held a doctorate in economics, Pellar was most notable for having invented barbecue seasoning for potato chips.
He went on to design grinding machines for spices and opened his own seasoning plant, Pellar Labs, in Chicago. He came from a long line of food inventors. His dad was an engineer who designed pie-making machinery in the 1920s.
His other inventions include improvements to the first automatic cow milking machine and roll-up home movie screens. He held patents for meat tenderizers, food processing, food spices, health products and sports products, “Dri-Grip” for tennis rackets.
Newman said when Pellar first moved to La Jolla from the Midwest he couldn’t find any Mexican food he liked. His hallmark flair for invention kicked in, culminating in Su Casa, which his daughter said was the first American restaurant melding seafood and Mexican food.
At Su Casa in 1968, the first strawberry margarita was blended, and nachos were invented. Su Casa was also the first restaurant to use no lard in refried beans, she said.