The AP brings sad news: “Rocky Aoki, known for running the Benihana Japanese steak house chain in North America, died in New York, sources close to him said Friday.” No cause of death is mentioned, but 69-year-old Aoki, one of the pioneers of Stateside Japanese food ever since he opened Benihana in 1964 and turned it into a worldwide multi-million-dollar company by 1979 (he recently valued it at between $60 million and $100 million), had been battling diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and hepatitis C — health problems no doubt brought on in part by his onetime penchant for hard living (he had scaled that back of late — we last caught him at the quiet opening of Wakiya). Also, no mention of what will become of Aoki’s legal battles. As a feature in the magazine described in outlandish detail, Aoki was suing four of his “disloyal and incompetent” children for attempting to take control of Benihana from him (Aoki believed they thought his most recent wife was a gold-digger). Who will get Aoki’s stretch Corvette and his stretch Volkswagen bug? Either way, the restaurant world has lost a truly one-of-a-kind pioneer. Look for us at the bar of Benihana tonight.
Related: Rocky’s Family Horror Show [NYM]