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Flavor Profile: Hapa Ramen's Richie Nakano

Photo by Schuyler Bailey

News flash: A fixture at the Ferry Building farmers market, Richie Nakano is set to open his first brick-and-mortar in the Mission in February 2014.

25 questions for Richie Nakano: 

When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?  
It wasn't a sudden realization for me. I was just cooking a lot and working front of house in restaurants and everything just sort of fell into place.

Favorite ingredient to work with and why?
I'm regularly amazed by the deliciousness and versatility of chicken.

Best thing you’ve eaten in SF?
Omakase at Ichi Sushi.

Dream playlist while cooking?
Schoolboy Q, “There he go”; Operation Ivy, “Jaded”; Odd Future, “Salute”; Major Lazer, “Jan No Partial”; At the Drive-In, “Arcarsenal.”

What do you make for yourself to eat at home?
To be honest, mostly just cereal.

Greatest indulgence?
Gravy fries and wings at Wing Wings.

What motivates you?
My sons. They also distract me often, but same same really.

What would you request for your last meal?
My moms chicken soup and homemade biscuits.

Who are your heroes?
My friends who have taken the risk to go on their own and open their own businesses: Jesse Friedman from Almanac Beer, Michelle Pusateri from Nana Joes Granola, Ryan Farr from 4505 Meats.

What’s in your refrigerator?
A lot of fruit, a jar of pickles, some baby food. It's pretty dismal in there. 

Where do you go for a good drink and what do you order?
Trick Dog. My usual is a shot and a beer, but I've never been disappointed with any cocktail I've gotten there.

Go-to takeout/delivery?
Nopalito, Out the Door, Good Frikken Chicken, Pizzeria Delfina.

What Bay Area restaurants are on your list to try?
Sons & Daughters, Benu, Spoonbar.

Favorite pairing?
Dry Riesling with the entire appetizer side of the menu at Nopa. 

Favorite don't-tell-anyone junk food?
This is going to sound boring and lame, but I really don't eat junk food or sweets.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Fermented jellyfish. It wasn't really my thing. 

If you weren't a chef, you'd be….?
A writer.

Any dietary restrictions?
None, but I'm pretty bad at handling spicy food even though I really love eating it.

Customer pet peeves?
Complaining on Yelp instead of just talking to me about it so I can fix the problem.

Describe your kitchen persona in one word.
Watchful.

Favorite SF neighborhood?
Sunset: The Riptide, Kingdom of Dumpling, and Taco Shop at Underdogs are my spots.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A good dad.

How far would you travel for a killer meal? Where to?
I really want to eat in the Middle East, experience the flavor there, but I don't know these days.

Strangest customer request?
Too many to name really. We try to accommodate any request we get so special requests are a regular thing for us now.

Proudest professional moment?
I don't think it's happened yet.

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This article was published in 7x7's December/January issue. Click here to subscribe.