Fieri Walks Away From The California Restaurants That Made Him

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri is walking away from his original California restaurants after 20 years.

Guy Fieri is walking away from his signature restaurants, Johnny Garlic's and Tex Wasabi's.
Guy Fieri is walking away from his signature restaurants, Johnny Garlic’s and Tex Wasabi’s.

There’s no joy in Guy Fieri’s Flavortown today.

This morning, reps announced that celebrity chef Guy Fieri will be walking away from his signature restaurants — Johnny Garlic’s and Tex Wasabi’s — in Northern California. Ironically, these are the very restaurants that made His Spikiness the reigning King of Food Network.

Fieri’s longtime business partner Steve Gruber will take over of the restaurants after signing an agreement to purchase Fieri’s stock and take sole ownership of Johnny Garlic’s Inc. The company’s holdings include seven Johnny Garlic’s restaurants in Northern California (including two in Sonoma County) and Tex Wasabi’s in Santa Rosa.

Last December, Fieri signaled his intent to dissolve the chain of seven restaurants in a petition to California’s secretary of state. Gruber counter-sued to block the dissolution by purchasing Fieri’s stake in the company. The two sides were in a standoff for several months  over the price for Fieri’s shares of the company. The sale price for Fieri’s stock was not released. Reps for Fieri have not yet issued a statement.

In what was described as an amicable ending of their business partnership, Gruber states his interest in continuing the Johnny Garlic’s and Tex Wasabi’s brand, with ownership of “all the current and future Johnny Garlic’s and Tex Wasabi’s restaurants.”

“It’s an exciting day,” said Gruber in a prepared statement. “I started Johnny Garlic’s as a partnership nearly 20 years ago and after two decades, it’s an opportunity for the brand to evolve and grow. We’re taking time to really listen to our guests, rework some of our operations, and plan for some big announcements early this summer to kick off our 20th anniversary,” he said.

Fieri continues to own several other restaurants including Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar in New York and Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar. 

The remaining Johnny Garlic’s restaurants are located on Farmer’s Lane in Santa Rosa and in Windsor, along with locations in Roseville, Dublin, San Jose, Bakersfield and Brentwood. A Tex Wasabi’s in Sacramento closed in 2013, leaving Santa Rosa as the sole location. The local location has seen its share of ups and downs, with a 19-month closure in 2009 and another recent closure “for repairs” in December 2015.

Fieri and Gruber opened the first Johnny Garlic’s in 1996, and Fieri’s outlandish dishes and in-your-face style helped propel him to superstardom on Food Network’s “Next Food Network Star” competition in 2006.

Stay tuned for more details as the story develops.