Richie Nakano is a chef and the founder of Hapa Ramen in San Francisco. Growing up in a Japanese-American family who loved sharing big meals triggered his interest in a food career. He worked as a waiter and bartender after high school and eventually enrolled in the California Culinary Academy.
Richie started his career cooking Asian food, first at Sushi Ran and then Va de Vi and Pres a Vi. Looking to expand his repertoire, he then joined the team at Nopa, where he learned about seasonality, California ingredients, and layering flavors. At the same time, Richie was eating a lot of ramen throughout San Francisco and wanted a bowl that met his standards—made with better ingredients and proper technique.
In 2010, he 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 pushed beyond the concept of what traditional ramen can be. He then opened Hapa, his first brick-and-mortar ramen noodle restaurant, in fall 2014, focusing on non-traditional Japanese ramen, and ran it to critical acclaims until late March 2015.