Everybody said he was crazy when Guy Fieri opened Tex Wasabi's Rock-N-Roll Sushi BBQ in downtown Santa Rosa three years ago.
"Even my business partner thought I was nuts," said Fieri, 38. "People said we were a novelty, that we weren't going to take it seriously."
But the unlikely fusion of Asian cuisine and Texas barbecue has been such a hit that Fieri is building a second Tex Wasabi's in Sacramento. The $1.2 million restaurant - his biggest yet - is expected to open in June.
And Fieri is about to get some national exposure as a contestant on "The Next Food Network Star," a reality show starting at 9 p.m. Sunday on cable TV's popular Food Network.
He's in a cook-off with seven other chefs for a chance to host a TV food show.
It's a heady time for Fieri, who began his restaurant career at age 12, selling pretzels to rodeo fans in his hometown of Ferndale.
Fieri and his partner, Steve Gruber, had three Johnny Garlic's restaurants in Sonoma County before he dreamed up the Tex Wasabi's concept.
They also own Russell Ramsey's Chop House, an upscale steakhouse in Santa Rosa.
Now, there's talk of franchising the concept for the Johnny Garlic's and Tex Wasabi's restaurants.
"We've had some conversations about it," he said. "We want to show that it's going to work in other markets, and make sure we've worked out all the kinks."