Rocky Aoki

Benihana

Here’s Why the Founder of Benihana Was the REAL Most Interesting Man in the World

Editor
Seriously, Rocky Aoki was an absolute legend

You’re probably familiar with Benihana, the chain that introduced America to communal hibachi-style dining when it first opened in New York in 1964. But you probably aren’t familiar with its founder, Rocky Aoki, which is a real shame. Because the guy was insanely cool, and could easily take the title of the actual Most Interesting Man in the World.

First of all, Aoki was the descendant of Samurai warriors, and before emigrating from Tokyo to the United States he was the bassist in a rock band as well as a champion wrestler, qualifying for the 1960 Olympics in Rome. After attending college on a wrestling scholarship, he moved to New York to continue his wrestling career, winning national flyweight titles in 1962, 1963, and 1964.

During this time, Aoki also studied restaurant management in grad school while working seven days a week as an ice cream truck driver in Harlem. He was able to save up $10,000, enough to get the ball rolling on opening the first Benihana in 1964. And all this before the age of 26.

Benihana took off and made Aoki a very wealthy man, and his life was definitely one lived to the fullest. In the 1970s, he took to powerboat racing, won five U.S. offshore races, and founded the “Benihana Grand Prix” before giving it up after two life-threatening injuries. In the 1980s, he became a balloonist, crossing the Pacific Ocean on a record-setting flight between Japan and California; he originally planned to go around the world but had to stop due to a severe storm. He also won the first 1,300-mile Milan to Moscow Road Rally in 1987 driving a vintage Rolls-Royce, won four World Backgammon Championships, founded a softcore men’s magazine called Genesis, drove across the country in a stretch VW Beetle, was a major environmentalist and philanthropist, and wrote 13 business motivational books before dying in 2008 at the age of 69. He also fathered seven children, including "three kids from three different women at exactly the same time."

Your turn, Dos Equis.

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