Rising Star Chef Richie Nakano - Biography

September 2015

Richie Nakano’s Japanese-American family often ate big meals together, which helped nudge 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 in San Francisco, where he nurtured his culinary foundation.

Nakano started his career cooking Asian food, taking a position at Sushi Ran in Sausalito. He then learned the art of bistro cooking at Va de Vi in Walnut Creek and then Pres a Vi in San Francisco. Looking to expand his repertoire, Nakano took a position at Nopa, where he learned about seasonality, while also mastering the art of layering flavors. Right before working at Nopa, Nakano started his loyally followed Line Cook blog, where he covered everything from culinary school interns to aggressive Yelpers. At the same time, Nakano was eating a lot of ramen in the city and yearned to create a bowl that met his standards.

In 2010, Nakano opened Hapa Ramen as a pop-up food stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. A few years later, after launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, he opened his first brick-and-mortar ramen noodle shop and earned a 2013 StarChefs Rising Star Community Chef Award. His involvement with Hapa ended this year, but Nakano continues to experiment with new recipes and host pop-ups, and he’s picked up writing again as a contributor for First We Feast.