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I'm Sammy Hagar, and I Learned to Cook Before I Learned to Rock

San Francisco Magazine Modern Luxury I m Sammy Hagar and I Learned to Cook Before I Learned to Rock


All told, he’s made more money from food and booze than from music, something that continues to surprise him. He always dreamed of being a rock star; the titles “restaurateur” and “tequila impresario,” he says, were “the two dreams I never had.”

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I'm guessing he made more from the tequila than he did from the restaurants.

As a compilation of recipes, anecdotes, and tips for Sammy-style living, Hagar’s book is categorized by the places he calls home: Mill Valley, Maui, and Cabo San Lucas. The latter looms large in the legend of Hagar: Way back in 1983, inspired by a beachside wedding, he traveled to the then-sleepy fishing village and liked it so much that in 1990 he opened the Cabo Wabo Cantina there. The restaurant-bar-nightclub spawned three more, in Las Vegas, Tahoe, and Hollywood, and paved the way for Hagar’s other pursuits in the food and beverage industry.

Along with the Cabo Wabos, there are Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill, the chain of airport and casino restaurants from which Hagar donates his personal profits to charity; El Paseo, the fine-dining steakhouse that he and Tyler Florence opened in Mill Valley in 2011; and Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, which he launched that same year. And, of course, there’s also Cabo Wabo tequila, the brand that Hagar created for his cantina patrons down in Cabo San Lucas and eventually sold to Gruppo Campari for almost $100 million. During this time, of course, Hagar’s main job description was rock star.

The singer and guitarist got his first big break in the mid-1970s when he was asked to join the hard-rock outfit Montrose; after splitting with them, he embarked on a successful solo career, with hit singles like “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy” and “I Can’t Drive 55” and a platinum-selling album, 1982’s Standing Hampton. In 1985, Van Halen hired Hagar to replace David Lee Roth as its front man. Over the next 11 years—a period commonly referred to by fans and detractors alike as Van Hagar—the band churned out four multi-platinum-selling albums and a slew of chart hits, like “Right Now,” “Finish What Ya Started,” and “When It’s Love.”

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