Growing up, Richie Nakano’s Japanese-American family often ate big meals together, nudging the budding chef toward a career in food. Working as a waiter and bartender after high school, Nakano started cooking for himself and eventually enrolled in the California Culinary Academy, where he nurtured his culinary foundation.
Nakano started his career cooking Asian food, taking positions first at Sushi Ran and then Va de Vi and Pres a Vi. Looking to expand his repertoire, Nakano took a position at Nopa, where he learned about seasonality, California ingredients, and layering flavors. Right before working at Nopa, Nakano started his now popular blog linecook415.blogspot.com, where he covers everything from culinary school interns to aggressive Yelpers. At the same time, Nakano was eating a lot of ramen in the city and wanted a bowl that met his standards—made with better ingredients and proper technique.
In 2010, Nakano opened Hapa Ramen, a pop-up food stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. By teaming up with some of the best organic farmers and employing modern techniques, he is pushing beyond the concept of what traditional ramen can be. The San Francisco community is on board with Nakano’s approach; off the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Nakano is opening Hapa, his first brick-and-mortar ramen noodle restaurant. Set to open in 2013, the restaurant will focus on non-traditional Japanese ramen.