Coronavirus

Chef Andrew Gruel on Capitalism, Cuisine, and Calling Gov. Gavin Newsom an Asshole

The founder of the Slapfish seafood chain battles arbitrary, non-scientific regulations and a punishing economy while reinventing the lobster roll.

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Last December, Andrew Gruel had finally had enough. He's the founder and owner of Slapfish, a growing seafood chain based in Huntington Beach, California, with restaurants in 10 states and the United Kingdom. The past eight months had been so brutal for business that he and his wife set up a fund to pay laid-off food workers, which had already disbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Outdoor and even some indoor dining had come back over the summer, but represented only a fraction of the volume from before COVID-19 darkened everyone's doors.

Then, right after Thanksgiving, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new lockdown prohibiting outdoor dining in most of the Golden State's restaurants. A regular on the Food Network and other cooking channels, Gruel uncorked an inspired video rant that went viral on social media.

"I can go into Walmart, I don't even have to wear pants, nobody wears a mask at Walmart, I can go get a pink cockatoo for my Christmas tree, but I can't go and dine outdoors at a restaurant," he said, listing all sorts of arbitrary rules that had been put into place during the pandemic. He noted that Newsom didn't even make the case that food establishments weren't complying with mask mandates and that public health officials agreed that outdoor dining wasn't a big spreader of COVID-19.

"I can go to Target, Amazon's making tons of money, big business is getting rich," he said, before concluding: "Outdoor dining doesn't lead to any of that. Okay, screw that…we're staying open outdoors. It's that simple. I'm not an asshole. The governor is."

Nick Gillespie sat down to talk with the 40-year-old Gruel about what it's been like to run a business with government at all levels arbitrarily flipping the on-off switch, why innovation is central to both capitalism and cuisine, and why he'll never open another franchise in California due to the tax-and-regulatory climate. They also discuss Gruel's culinary journey that started at the Jersey Shore, the country's rising sophistication when it comes to food, and his commitment to innovative, open-ocean aquaculture that he says will save at-risk fisheries while improving the diet of the typical American.

Interview by Nick Gillespie; edited by Zach Weissmueller; camera by Ben Gaskell; additional graphics by Meredith Bragg.

Photo credits: Keith Birmingham/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Cindy Yamanaka, Cindy Yamanaka/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Cindy Yamanaka/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Watchara Phomicinda/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

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  1. Transcript, please.

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  2. This the only guy that is fighting back?

  3. If a chef’s last name is “Gruel” he might want to consider a professional moniker change.

    1. “No gruel for you!”

  4. Newsome is an asshole. I hope he gets recalled and replaced with a republican.

    1. He’s trying to change things with talking about opening up California by June. As with most liberal socialist communist Ds they are All talk & Zero action. Californians DON’T BE FOOLED BY HIS RHETORIC!!!!!!! Recall him in November!!!!

      1. I would vote to recall him if I could, from Missouri.

        1. Register as a democrat and it shouldn’t be that hard – – – – – – – – – – – –

    2. We’ve got problems here in Michigan with our own asshole governor and asshole Atty. Gen.
      I doubt the political scene will change anytime soon in either Cali or Michigan. Too many liberal cities who out vote the rest of us in the hinterlands also know as deplorables.

  5. “The founder of the Slapfish seafood chain”

    Why do you keep saying this like anyone has any idea WTF you’re talking about?

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slapfish

    “as of 2018 there are over 11 locations”

    So 12?

    NO ONE FUCKING CARES. IT ISN’T A THING. AND THE NAME IS FUCKING STUPID.

    1. However, good on this guy for having a pair even if his restaurants are barely a blip and have stupid names.

    2. Hey! I like the name! He probably got the inspiration from The Monty Python Fish-Slapping Dance.
      And while Newsome is slapping with a little brim, Chef Gruel is hauling off with a monsterous tuna and knocking Newsome into the bay! 🙂

      1. John Cleese’s favorite skit.
        Mr. No Supper For you

        1. I meant the fish slapping dance was John Cleese’s favorite skit.
          my alias is Mr. No Supper for You.

  6. It is good to see someone who is visible, who is calling out the nonsense and the misdirected efforts of politicians trying to appear as though they are effective but just abusing [never mind exceeding] the power of their office. Many of our most fundamental freedoms [to assemble, even with our own families and in our own homes] has been abused with little to nothing to show for it but misguided virtue.

    And yet fools [like Tony, who equates owning an AR with possessing nuclear weapons] will clamor “Oh my God, it’s a PANDEMIC people! Our enlightened leaders are only

    1. sorry for the squirrel, can’t delete duplicates

  7. It is good to see someone who is visible, who is calling out the nonsense and the misdirected efforts of politicians trying to appear as though they are effective but just abusing [never mind exceeding] the power of their office. Many of our most fundamental freedoms [to assemble, even with our own families and in our own homes] has been abused with little to nothing to show for it but misguided virtue.

    And yet fools [like Tony, who just today equated owning an AR with possessing nuclear weapons] will clamor “Oh my God, it’s a PANDEMIC people! Our enlightened leaders are only TRYING TO PROTECT US!!!

    I just have to say we need to restructure this country, so that sensible and freedom loving people can live in peace, and they other can just go off the rails however they please.

  8. I don’t know who this dude is but anyone who call Her Newsome an asshole is fine by me!

  9. I wonder if he’d like to be President.

    1. President man-bun.

  10. Newsomes a cunt…recall her.

  11. He probably would still vote for him though so he gets what he gets.

  12. Gillespie is a pretty damn exceptional interviewer. Take the time to watch this video. Lots of great insight into the inner workings of California political culture. Keep fighting the good fight, Chef Gruel.

  13. California needs more outspoken business people but it appears that most of them are simpering liberals. What a mess Newsom has made out of that state. How many small businesses and restaurants have been forced out of business permanently because of stupid governors and mayors? How many? And the ignorant liberals want to force small businesses to pay a $15.00/ hour minimum wage or get the hell out!
    Not only have the liberals ruined the business climate of that state but their conservation practices contributed greatly to the damage caused by the forest fires that raged through the state, almost unstoppable due to the ignorance of liberals in Sacramento.
    L.A. is a sewer, San Fran is a sewer and many other small towns are riddled with gang violence.
    The situation is no different than Portland or Seattle both cities and both states run by liberals.
    This is what they voted for.

  14. A liberal politician/bureaucrat/ruler is a “true believer”, i.e., politically superstitious authoritarian. Reality, experience, do NOT change their mind partly because only others suffer from their dictates. Make them suffer. Fight back like chief Gruel, e.g., speak out, boycott them, e.g., solve problems without govt.

  15. He is 100 percent correct. Gavin Newsom is the King of A**holes. He is a Wokehole who has no real talent or leadership ability other than pandering and demagoguery. He has never created anything of worth or substance on his own in his entire life. Only fools support and vote for Newsom and unfortunately, California is currently a Sea of Fools.

  16. He’d better be careful of what he says. You can now be investigated for saying anything near critical about our great leaders. Just recently a young man was paid a visit by plainclothes CHP for being mildly critical of AOC’s response to the Palestinian crisis.
    It seems this young man was exhibiting extremist behavior that needs to be investigated and warned not to say anything critical of our betters, and AOC is one of the betters.
    The same goes for Gov. Newsom. After all he is one of our betters and anyone who says anything critical should be immediately given a warning by the saints in blue about their extremist views.
    I’m totally surprised that Chef Gruel has not been paid a visit by the CHP and warned of his extremist views.

    1. Those who are “careful” and afraid to speak up are not being not practical. Their fear will not protect them. It enslaves them. Fight or flee. But to stay and not resist is self-enslavement. I choose to fight because I’m not self-destructive.

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