Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef Richie Nakano

May 2013

Katherine Sacks: Tell me about the Happa Ramen concept. How did you get started?
Richie Nakano: I was eating a lot of ramen but there was a lack of any ramen that used quality ingredients or that strayed from the traditional shio/shoyu/tonkotsu flavors. I started cooking ramen on my days off and having friends over to try it, and decided to go out on my own and take a risk. 

KS: What is your expansion plan? Where do you hope to take the concept?
RN: We're trying to get a brick and mortar open but it's been a headache. We'll get there eventually but I would love to open a couple places around the Bay Area. 

KS: What is the chef community like in San Francisco?
RN: It's pretty great. It's a small town and generally everyone contributes something different. There are little cliques and all but for the most part everyone is great and really supportive of each other. 

KS: What is the most challenging thing you've had to do in your career so far?
RN: Opening Hapa and getting through the first year. 

KS: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for you?
RN: Getting my place open. Getting to a place where I feel like I can give my kids a really secure future. 

KS: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
RN: I don't eat out as much as I used to but I see all of the chefs at the market we sell at, and we feed many of them every week. And I've been able to offer advice on pop-ups to chefs that leave their jobs to start up a pop-up. 

KS: Where will we find you in 5 years?
RN: In San Francisco, hopefully opening up ramen places here and there. Or maybe in Tokyo.  Heh.