You probably know Sammy Hagar as a rocker who has fronted Van Halen (and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the band) and had a successful solo career, but you may not know that he’s been way more successful as a spirits entrepreneur and restaurateur. He reportedly sold his Cabo Wabo Tequila for close to $100 million, and now he owns Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum plus a slew of casual restaurants in the United States and Mexico. A lifelong food lover and home cook with an impressive wine collection, Sammy travels the world consuming the best of the best. “I eat great every night,” he insists. “I eat as good food as you can have and don’t have any rules!” The Feast spent a Sunday eating and drinking with Sammy and his wife, and we're still recovering. Here, 6 reasons why we're inspired by the guy's appetite for living right:
1. He serves a killer paella at his restaurant.
If he’s not on tour, Sammy eats at El Paseo, the California-Spanish restaurant he owns near his home in Mill Valley, CA, two to three times a week. He can often be seen there high-fiving staff and patrons and bringing a big burst of energy to the place. The best day to join him is on Sunday, when fresh paella simmers in giant pans on the patio. Inspired by recent travels to Mexico, Sammy brought in Tacho Kneeland, the Mexico City-born chef from his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Las Vegas, to perfect the recipe. Richly flavored and full of the crispy bits of rice known as socarrat, plus a hearty mélange of fresh mussels, shrimp, chicken, chorizo and pork riblets, it also comes in a vegetarian version.
2. He makes a mouthwatering salt-baked fish.
His pal Mario Batali taught Sammy how to take any fish and bake it whole in salt for incredibly tender results. Batali’s master recipe suggests trying it with a large three-pound fish such as snapper, sea bass, bream or porgy, but Sammy recently found that it worked incredibly well with a fresh-caught eight-pound mahi mahi gifted to him by a friend in Hawaii: “It’s my new favorite way to cook fish, it’s unbelievably moist! It’s so delicious you don’t even want to have anything with it,” he raves.
3. He eats BLTs multiple times a day.
Sammy is not a huge breakfast person, but a friend recently gave him a hunk of homemade bacon rubbed with brown sugar and coffee and smoked with chicory and hickory. It’s become a new obsession. He admits that he’s spent the last few days practically subsisting on open-faced sandwiches of San Francisco sourdough bread, a drizzle of olive oil, a slice of his first homegrown heirloom tomatoes of the season and a mound of this bacon. El Paseo is now going to be using this bacon in-house from time to time. The restaurant’s chef Henry Cortez says it's really pork belly, and the two playfully agree to disagree. Whatever it really is, it’s well worth trying: The earthy bitterness of the coffee and wood smoke make a surprisingly potent foil for the brown sugar. Though he’s currently on a BLT bender, he says of cooking, “I’m going to be experimenting for the rest of my life, because that’s what I do. It’s like playing a song — I can’t play the same song over and over!”
4. He grows pineapples.
The Hagar family grows fresh fruits and vegetables on their properties in California and Maui so they can be, as Sammy's wife Kari calls it, “garden to table.” In California, they’re currently enjoying the fruits of their first heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash, while in Hawaii they’re devouring their own pineapples and guavas. “My daughter loves the guavas so much, she once tried to sneak one back into California in her hair bun!” Kari says.
5. He pairs his home-cooked meals with rare wines.
Sammy has an extensive wine collection in his cellar, so he often starts his cooking with his wine pairing already in mind. For that El Paseo paella, for example, he enjoys a 1995 Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero — one of his favorite bottles in general. “I’ve got a lot of old wine,” he says, “so I’ll select it and set it up for the whole day and then go grocery shopping and get my main course, whether it’s a veal chop or whatever. I’ll do that and cook every day that I’m home.”
6. His cookbook will save your party.
Sammy released Are We Having Any Fun Yet? Cooking & Partying Handbook in 2015 and it’s filled with fun recipes inspired by his culinary adventures in Cabo San Lucas, Mill Valley and Maui, including an unusual breaded and fried abalone sandwich and a choco nut cocktail that should be everyone’s dessert go-to. Sammy admits that he gave up most of his best food and drink recipes in it, but he would love to do another food-centric book where he’d play interviewer and collaborator with some of his closest celebrity chef friends, like Batali and Emeril Lagasse. He’d want to get their life stories and then rock out in the kitchen with them. Publishers, are you listening?
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