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Guy Fieri & Cigars

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

Several years ago, in the early 2000s, when I was visiting Sonoma wine country, some friends took me to dinner at a restaurant called Tex Wasabi’s in downtown Santa Rosa. It was a kind of self-described sushi-barbecue fusion place. This was a restaurant founded by Guy Fieri, of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives fame. The menu didn’t pique my appetite at the time, but to Fieri’s credit, Tex Wasabi’s was packed. There was much demand for his brand of cuisine. The restaurant was open for about 20 years, closing in 2019. Fieri himself has triumphed since he won the Next Food Network Star competition in 2007. He has several TV shows on the culinary channel. He has become very wealthy. He co-owns (with rocker Sammy Hagar) a tequila company. During the coronavirus pandemic, Fieri helped raise more than $20 million to help restaurant workers. And in 2022, Fieri fulfilled his dream of having his own cigar brand.

Guy Fieri’s First Taste of Cigars

Fieri, 55, is a longtime cigar smoker. He says he came to love the smell of cigars when he would visit his grandfather, who smoked “Tiparillos and White Owls.” Fieri himself started off that way before coming to embrace the premium side of cigars.

“I went through my good, bad and ugly era of cigars,” he told Cigar Aficionado; he graces the magazine’s July/August 2023 cover. Fieri remembers that his first premium cigar was a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Maduro. “I tasted it and I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now I understand.’ I still have two or three boxes in my humidor.”

Fieri then smoked a Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona.

“I’ve gone through the gamut, an Avo fan, always a Fuente fan, Short Story was one of my all-time faves.”


When Fieri started in the restaurant business, managing a restaurant in Long Beach, California, he used cigars as a way to relax.

“I don’t know anybody in town. And I work crazy hours in the restaurant business. So, on my day off I would ride my mountain bike about a mile away” to a local cigar shop. Fieri says the shop’s owner, Mike, provided a good cigar education.

“I would go in and every time Mike would say, ‘OK, you have to try something new today.’ So, he would explain it to me, walk me through it, and I’d get a chance to sit there and enjoy it. And I would learn.”

Guy Fieri’s First Restaurant

When Fieri opened his first restaurant, in 1996, he borrowed money from his parents. The eatery succeeded and he paid them back in six months. Cigars were part of the experience there, anchored by a glass case humidor selling cigars.

“I would hold cigar dinners. There’s a big cigar painted on the wall, that said cigar patio. And we caught some smack for it. Some people said it stinks. I didn’t really care. It was more about having something that I really enjoyed.”

The Knuckle Sandwich Cigar

Jump forward nearly 30 years and Fieri is talking to Espinosa Cigars about creating his own line. Fieri’s management team had resisted the idea because of the association with smoking. But Fieri had just re-upped with the Food Network for a record $80-million, three-year deal. He also had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A friend made the connection with Erik Espinosa.

“If you don’t think ‘Cigar Godfather’ when you meet the guy,” Fieri says of Espinosa, “then you’re really not in the cigar game. I think he went from having a pacifier in his mouth to having a cigar in his mouth.”

Fieri and Espinosa shook hands and a year later the Knuckle Sandwich cigar, named after Fieri’s holding company, was born. The Knuckle Sandwich came out in two styles. The Habano has an Ecuador Habano wrapper; the Maduro is wrapped with Ecuador Sumatra. The filler and binder are Nicaraguan. The two come in three vitolas: a Corona Gorda R, 5.63 inches by 46 ring gauge; a Robusto J, 5 inches by 52 ring gauge; and a Toro at 6 inches by 54 ring gauge. The Habano Corona Gorda R was rated 92 by Cigar Aficionado, earning a top 25 slot in 2022. Knuckle Sandwich cigars are produced at the San Lotano factory, owned by AJ Fernandez, in Nicaragua, and they’re described as delivering medium to full-bodied notes of leather and nuts with hearty spices before a lingering finish of hickory.

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