Our Kickstarter Update

10 Days to go on our project and we're 25% funded.  This project has been a rewarding collaboration between friends and its been amazing to see who has made videos, pledged, and helped spread the word.  We still have a ways to go, but the experience thus far has been...fulfilling. 

Everyday we're updating the project with new videos from friends and our extended family talking about why theyre backing our project.  In some cases its a famous chef, in other cases its a farmer, or just a regular customer.  Today's video features Victor Alvarado.

Vic and I used to be Hapa Ramen.  2 of us.  We had no idea what we were doing, We worked 16 hour days 7 days a week for months.  He was a brand new cook back then, and I raked him over the coals every day.  He was tenacious, exceedingly positive, and turned into a different person during the course of that first year.  Then he headed off to my alma mater, Nopa to work the grill, slug out 500 cover services, and be a part of one of the greatest kitchens in San Francisco. 

And now he's coming back to us to help open Hapa. 

Check out his video and the others, spread the word, and pledge if you can.  Every dollar counts.

Also, he can skate like a maniac. 


Hapa's Kickstarter Campaign

Two years and change into the life of Hapa Ramen, and we are nearing completion on our tiny little noodle shop. My first restaurant. The culmination of all those days of slinging noodles in the rain, hauling stoves and stock pots around, and hustling as hard as we could to feed the masses. Hapa has been without a doubt the most difficult thing that I've ever done in my life. But with all of the trials and tribulations has come some of the greatest rewards. The people I've met and worked with, the guests that we have fed...it's been life changing. So now linecook reader, I ask for your support. If this blog has meant anything to you, or helped you along the way, then please share the link or support our kick starter campaign to help us make our restaurants kitchen come alive. The past two years have been murder on our equipment, and with your support we can upgrade and start phase 2 of Hapa's young life. Any little bit helps, be it a retweet, or a pledge. Thanks. Richie Nakano



I'm standing in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park, and I should be paying attention to the cook carefully pouring liquid nitrogen into my cocktail.  She's explaining the entire process and ingredients, and i'm pretty sure there is some clever allusion to a digestif or something, but I dont hear any of it.  It's not because im disinterested, or because I have had a dozen glasses of wine. (OK, that may have had a little to do with it.)  It's because it is SO FUCKING NOISY IN THERE.  And I feel completely at home.  Whenever I have been fortunate enough to have been invited into a fine dining kitchen it has always been whispery quiet.  They usher you in, everyone sort of looks up at you and half smiles, and you more or less skulk around in the bitch corner until your time is up, and they show you to the door.  EMP however is a mosh pit;  It's fast and loud and crowded and for fucks sake I just want to jump in there right now and cook.  The composed chaos of it all sends shivers down my spine.  Fine dining is so much sexier when it's humanized like this.

I haven't written here in a long time.  And as much as I would like to blame that on being too busy with maintaining the business and fatherhood, the truth is that I haven't had anything to say.  Linecook had its run and served (and still to some extent, serves) its purpose.  I'm proud of it and thankful for everything it has brought me.  But the truth is that I look at the person that wrote it and he is not here.  I do not recognize him anymore.

In the past year my career has reached a point where things started to settle down a bit.  Hapa found its groove, I added two amazing chefs to my team, and the food started to really reach people.  It seemed like a good time to step back and take stock of where we had been, where we would be going.  A time to focus in on everything that had slipped through my fingers during that first difficult year.  Instead I wanted things to be hard again.  I craved the struggle.  The person who started this blog at one point found refuge in cooking.  It was a place to find peace.  Then somewhere along the way the stress fractures started to give way and a volatile mix of worry, self doubt, and anger...and for fucks sake it felt glorious.  There was no more potent cocktail that could make my adrenaline flow and force me to focus in.

Fiending for chaos is not a sustainable option for healthy living.  When things are good you're on edge.  When service is going smoothly you become irrational, irritated.  Instead of bearing hardship through the beauty and intensity life offers you, instead you face it alone.  You mistake your anger for quiet stoicism...dignity.  Poor choices are made...professional and personal.  Nothing will ever be good enough ever again--only youre too blind to see it.

What is a life well spent? Is it cooking and stars?  Is it accolades and endorsement deals and making a buck?  Is it a million followers or facebook friends?  What the fuck is the point if the pleasure is only coming from the difficult parts? 

  • i just realized last week--almost all of the people in my life currently are people that create/make things...
  • new york.  different this last time around
  • dj shadows the less you know, the better is brilliant
  • im deeply grateful for Coi, because I cant really see it existing in any other city besides SF
  • Svet thinks we should do a podcast
  • Mostly this felt incoherent, but like Violet says, sometimes you have to write
  • Kids crying.  Gotta go.


What happened, part 1.

Im standing at the expo station as the clock nears 1am at Nopa. Corey is crouched eating a burger quietly, and Paulie and Ponder are starting to break down their mise. Paulie shoots me a look with his eyebrows raised--the kind of look that says "Fuck dude. That was a rough one." Ponder's usual jubilance is absent...possibly being weighed down by his soaked through chef coat and bandanna. Corey throws his arm around Ponder and shakes him, shouting "FUCK YEAH, DUDE! 500 COVERS!" not sounding completely convinced that hes actually excited about it. I turn to Paulie. "When we leave here Paulie, nothing will be hard ever again. There is nothing that any kitchen can throw at us after we've been through this. It almost makes me worried that anything we do after this will be too easy. We might get bored. We should quit now while we're ahead."

This will wind up being the dumbest thing I have ever said in my entire life.

Coming back from a vacation to New York, my head was spinning. I was being considered for a chefs job. Chef de cuisine. New York City. In a great restaurant. I immediately spoke to my current Chef about it, and woke up early for phone interviews, and sweated about impending tastings, and what it would mean to move across the country. I was nervous, and doubtful, but felt completely ready to take the next step. Then a week before everything was set to jump off, life intervened, and the whole thing fell through.
Standing with my Chef as he loads his car for an off-site event, I tell him the whole story, then mutter this:

"I think im gonna open a ramen spot."
"I think that's a good idea. Do you have a name?"
"Yeah. Im gonna call it Hapa Ramen."

I have planned poorly.

It's Wednesday, the day before our big farmers market debut. A month earlier I was getting my teeth kicked in at Coffee Bar, and im not going to re-cap it all over again here. The past month has been all about redemption, and planning, and building myself back up. But here, in this moment, as I prep by myself, (Victor is in school, Susanna and I have not met, and my other cook had to go to her stripper job. Seriously.) I realize that I am deeper in the weeds than I have ever been in my entire life. My last day at Nopa was Sunday, and there are several things that I have not taken into account:
  • cooking is easy. driving around picking up everything because you dont have proper accounts set up with vendors is really fucking hard
  • making 300 portions of noodles all by yourself takes a very, very long time.
  • fuck that. prepping for 300 covers all by yourself, no matter what it is, more or less sucks.
  • going out for tequila on monday was a mistake
  • strippers are less than reliable, especially when youre not paying them.
In the midst of all of my stress, and multi-tasking, La Cocina informs me that the kitchen will be closing at 5. It's Wednesday. They always close at 5 on Wednesday. They told me this. It was in my paperwork.

I. Am. Fucked.

As I calculate how many portions of noodles I can knock out per hour, and eye the case of snap peas that I havent even touched yet, and watch the clock inch towards 5, utter panic sets in. La Cocina agrees to let me stay until 6...then 7...then 8...but seriously dude, you HAVE to be out by 9. I pack up all of my noodle mise, and 5 hours later my home kitchen is covered in flour. I blanch snap peas and chard, and through kindness (and pity) Nopa allows me to store all of my prep in their walk-in for the night.

Nothing would ever be hard again? Seriously. What the fuck.

I drive home, and sleep for one hour. I'm not questioning the choices ive made, but as I lay down in bed, with my two month old son sleeping a few feet away, I do start to question my cooking ability, my intelligence, and how much easier it would have been to have just taken that well paying job in NYC. The first Hapa Ramen service starts in 5 hours.


2010, you were a motherfucker.

2010, you were a motherfucker.  Without a doubt, you have been the most difficult 12 months of my life.  If we were cellmates, you would've had me in lipstick.  I was your bitch.  2010, you ambushed me in the dark, shoved my face up against the mirror, and forced me to look at myself for who and what I am.  I fucking hate you 2010.  And I am forever indebted to you for everything that you gave me.

2010, you revealed my weaknesses by slapping me in the face.  Very public failures that led to sleepless nights that led to wildly aggressive, mildly productive days that led to more sleepless nights that somehow led me to a logical idea of how to proceed in the most efficient way.  You took my dangerous overconfidence and stripped it down to it's core; an inflated ego resting on a wobbly scaffolding made up of too many compliments, too few challenges, and the idea that I could do anything, at any time.  2010, at a certain point you were beating me down in such a brutal way that you made me feel deeply connected to the world around me.  Turmoil, frailty, unrest, rage.  You forced me to find a way to escape myself if only through running until my legs cramped and my lungs ached, and I was far, far away, with no choice but to walk back home alone, insecurities and fears taunting me the whole way.

2010, you made me smarter, by showing me how stupid I am.  It's been a hell of thing, being out there alone, and trying to figure things out...especially after I thought I had things all figured out.  I made my decisions based on a frail mix of past experiences, instinct, and common sense.  And this would work fine for me until I realized I had been being completely inefficient; burning up money, hours, and my teetering sanity.  Then, one moment at a time the pieces would start to come together, and I would quietly curse myself and let in a smile, if only for a moment.  And to think now that I have it all figured out would be ridiculous.  I'm sure that in six months ill be feeling many of these same frustrations with my past self.  For as smart as I like to think I am, I sure am a fucking idiot sometimes.

2010, you forced me to be better.  If for only one reason.  For the first time in my life succeeding had nothing to do with trying to advance my career, or ego, or money.  Cooking wasn't about being the best, or the guest, or self-fullfilment.  2010, you gave me the most profound/terrifying experience of my life when you gave me my son, and you showed me a whole new way to approach my work.  There is no motivation in the world like working for the survival of another person, and as a cook, to experience this...it's illuminating.  Every goal, every idea, every plate, every task, they all end up relating back to who it is that you're working for.  Suddenly the way people react to your craft becomes so much more..personal.  To impact my work this year was to impact my son, and even if it made me unreasonable at times, it absolutely made me cook better, and try harder.

2010, through you I accomplished so much.  Achievement.  Hurt.  Humiliation.  Elation.  The making of new friendships.  The transformation of old friends into enemies.  The abandonment of the familiar, the safe, for the great unknown.  You gave me a son.  You gave me the feeling that everything and nothing was impossible.  2010, you scared the fuck out of me, and never let me act like a little bitch about it.  I hate you 2010.  And I thank you for every single minute.

whats been going on the past 9 months:  SF, father & son, colton, colton, vic, colton, work, sold out, mer mer, last days at nopa, colton, to-do lists


some old stuff.

a single note:

this blog isnt dead.  it's not going away, its not over.  here's some stuff that's just been sitting here for months.

quotes and conversations. 

Me:  Is your back still fucked up?
Goose:  I think it's my hip.
Me:  You know what's good for that?
Maritess:  Boning down.
Goose:  Boning down nasty style.
Me:  Yoga.  Geez you guys.

Dega:  Have you ever been to Cony Island? 
Me:  No.
Dega:  They have this game there called shoot the freak.  You shoot this raver with purple hair.
Me:  Yeah, but it's different now.
Dega:  It is?
Me:  Yeah.  Now it's called shoot the hipster.  And instead its some asshole with a red beanie and a fixie.
Dega:  I hate you.

"Some girls are too nice to tell a guy no.  That's how I ended up on a date with a guy that worked at the renaissance fair."

"Come on Pito, show me your dark side.  You know, I don't think it's that dark.  I think it's kinda white."
-Camaal, talking to Eddie.

Merrell:  Gerardo, you look like Julius Ceasar. 
Gerardo:  Does that make you wanna fuck me?

Eddie:  Hey Dega.
Dega:  Yeah.
Eddie:  Guess what i'm gonna do tomorrow?
Dega:  What?
Eddie:  Bone down regular style.
Gerardo:  Regular.

Me:  Camaal, you don't want to lose ten pounds.  You'll look like Eddie.
Camaal:  I don't wanna look like Eddie.
Me:  No.
Eddie:  What.  Are you talking about my stinky pussy?

(Merell and I are bickering.  I pass her a pan of chickens mid argument.)
Me:  And take your fucking cock, because its the only kind you're getting!
Merrell:  Well...I don't have anything to say to that.  So fuck you.

Eddie:  Here's a good one.  Wanna know how much of a pussy I am?  I cried through the entire movie "Up."
Me:  (Hysterical laughing)
Merrell:  Why are you volunteering this information?
Eddie:  Have you seen it?  It's a very touching movie.
Al:  Fire back 40.
Me:  I'm sorry Al, I couldn't hear you because I was too busy laughing about Eddie crying through the entire movie "Up."
Maritess:  Have you seen it?  It's a very touching movie.

from top:  pig diagram, restrictions apply, mer-mer's birthday, making james freeman cringe, pigs head, burning towels, butchery, tomato, amy brown, los angeles, a big ass mimosa.


The stage. A guide.

Question of the week/fill in the blanks: on a stage, you should ___. On a stage you should not ___. What makes a good stagiere?
amigadehelado@linecooka stage should pay attention, ask questions, taste things. Get out of the way when neccessary. Don't set stage hours by a "clock"
Tanukipdx@linecook once had a stage grab my favorite yanagiba ($$$$Japanese slicer) and cut themselves a piece of bread w/it. end of stage.
Tanukipdx@linecook a good stage silently&invisibly gets stuff done...like a little mise en place fairy. a bad stage snacks on people's mise
Benjamin_Parks@linecookOn a stage you quietly take notes You should not start telling your glory stories of all the other restaurants you have worked in.
tournant@linecook -should//STFU, do what we tell yo, stay out of the way...should not//show off your skull n knives tattoo, hit on servers
adoxograph@linecook on a stage you should absorb and remember the best and worst of what you see, esp little details
adoxograph@linecookon a stage you should not ever say to yourself well, I'm not getting paid so I don't have to (clean, be on time, fill the blank)
PrixFixeOnline@linecookYou should work your arse off, you should not stand around after finishing a task. Always ask chef for next task, speed is a must.
jrnavlag@linecook U should work and learn. U should not let the pay or lack of it be your drive.  Do your research.  Then shut up about it.
ingridc@linecookYou should shut up, be nice, listen and follow directions. You should not touch a cook's mise unless asked. Or get mouthy, ever.
ingridc@linecook p.s.-last wk's stage told chef he wants to trail our killer pasta man Javi.. so he could show him how to make it right #dieinafire
randomplacement@linecook a good stage contributes to the team and fits in with the team
randomplacement@linecook work and learn, run your mouth
Gchef703@linecook What makes a good stagiere? Hard-Working, Humble, Passionate person who Loves food and is willing to do anything to learn!
you should not Be a Pre Madonna!!! Should not be late, ask for days
off, breaks or a special jacket to show off to your friends

Gchef703@linecook you should Be a Sponge Listen! Learn! and ask a million questions even if they are stupid questions. ask em!

You're about to explode.  There's too far too much blood and oxygen coursing through your veins, and your eyes your pupils are so dialated that they would catch the attention of any police officer you came across.  You just finished your stage, and it went so beautifully that you're too wound up to eat, or drink, or even talk about it.  This is one of those perfectly fleeting moments, so you just sit there on the bus, missing your stop, so you can soak it all up.  You start Tuesday as the new fish cook.  Unless:

You blew it.  It seemed like your stage was going ok, but right around the end of the first turn the sous told you that you could take off.  You considered protesting, but instead you decided to change, have a smoke and get a bite to eat.  Sitting down at the bar, you order your food and a drink, and sometime later the chef tells you that you're welcome back anytime...but no job is discussed.  And you dont ask about one.  Your stage is over, and you wasted it.  So how did this happen?

You went into the restaurant between lunch and dinner service dressed appropriately, resume and knives in hand.  For a week you've been reading the menu on-line, and bringing yourself up to speed on the background of the chef and the restaurant itself.  After your chat with the chef, you let him know that you're ready to stage that evening if he would like.  He tells you to come back Friday instead.  On Friday you show up early, smiling and introducing yourself to any staff that you come across.  You take your knives and a spoon out of your kit that you slimmed down a bit, and settle in with any prep work that they'll give you--herb picking, cutting bread, citrus supremes.  You work quietly and cleanly, with eyes and ears open so you dont miss a thing.  Unless:

You drop into the restaurant as you walk by, and approach the chef who is expediting a fairly busy lunch service.  He doesn't have time to talk to you right now, but tells you to come back that evening at 4 for a stage.  You tell him that you have tickets to a show, but could you come in tomorrow?  He asks for a resume.  You dont have it with you.  When you do show up for your stage, the chef asks you why you want to work in his restaurant; what is it about this place, this food, that turns you on?  You stumble through some bullshit answers.  He smirks at you.  Unpacking your kit you pull out 6 knives, a spatula, tongs, and a handful of spoons.  The sous steps in next to you.
"Um.  What's all that shit for?"
Working through your prep, you dont shut up--about your last job, your opinions on how things should be done, and who you think should win top chef.  No one really responds to you, but you go on anyways. 

The chef had told you that he needed a fish cook, so this is the station that you stick with through prep, line-up, and into service.  During line up you politely ask if you can taste mise, and as you taste dishes you take notes, and try to memorize the station set-up.  Just before service you sweep the station and wipe down everything for the cook.  You ask the chef if he wants you anywhere else during service, but he says no.  During service you pull plates, and garnish, but generally try to stay out of the way and observe.  Eventually the pace starts to build a bit, and the cook catches your eye.
"Alright.  We're going on 7 fish and 6 scallops.  We'll go together, ok?  You take the scallop dish."
An hour later you're cooking all of the proteins on your own, with the fish cook plating and garnishing for you.  When the sous asks how it's all going for you, you tell him you love it, and want to close the station that night.  There will be no end of shift meal or drink for you.  Just a cold family meal, a watery iced tea, and a nod of approval from the brigade.  Unless:

You bounce around the kitchen getting all up in everyones shit, but not really absorbing anything.  You taste without asking, and more than once you criticize the food.  During one of your rants about how you used to do it at your last job, the grill cook catches looks at you and growls "Well that's so fucking interesting."  Most of your evening is spent leaning against the ice machine, and when you do step in, you're so fucking slow wiping plates and garnishing that the sous knocks the chervil out of your hand and shouts "JUST FUCKING SEND IT!"  You cook zero orders, and when you sit down to eat at the bar, you order an expensive cocktail, and dont tip.  You.  Fucking.  Blew.  It.

There is nothing like a stage in any other field of work.  Sure, athletes have tryouts, and actors have auditions.  A stage is both.  It lasts many hours, is physically and mentally draining, and everyone is already expecting you to fail before you even begin.  It's the culinary equivalent of  getting jumped into a gang.  You get one chance to get it right, and being thrust into an unfamiliar, borderline hostile environment guarantees that if you don't fail outright, you are at very least probably going to make a stupid mistake.

And at the end of your stage, it's all of this pressure that makes succeeding all the more sweet.  To have cooked well, and won over the cooks that let you into their home is a special thing.  It's a re-affirming rite of passage, and a fleeting feeling you only get to enjoy every once in a while.  Don't let your stage just pass on by.

  • that's not bechamel.
  • holy shit!  I updated finally!
  • podcasts are coming back.  no really.  they are.
  • get some rest.
  • burrito
  • stepping into an open grease trap means youll probably need new shoes.
  • that's pasta water.  not a deep fryer.
  • fish & farm seems like its becoming the new industry night off spot

Quotes and Conversations.

Me, to Gerardo:  Hey dude.  Tell your partner if he mouths off to me again, im gonna tie him up.
Eddie:  Shhiiiiiiieeeeeett.  You wish!  You wish you could enter the dungeon!

(I pinch Eddie's nipple.)
Eddie:  Hey dude!  Not the nipples!
Me:  Oh, im gonna get the nipples.
Eddie:  (pause)  I'm...ticklish.

Me:  You can call him a pussy if you want to.
Eddie:  I don't want to call him a pussy.  That would be the pot calling the kettle black.

Me:  Eddie.  Want me to give you a hand massage?
Eddie:  No.
Me:  With my balls?
Eddie:  That's not a massage.

Goose:  Those new light fixtures are bad.  The block looks good now.
Me:  Yeah dude, they're nice.
Eddie:  And they reduce light pollution.
Me:  Fuck off Ed Begley Jr.
Goose:  Get the fuck outta here with that shit.
Eddie:  Did you know I can ruin any conversation?

"I'm a human snuggie.  You wrap me around you and watch t.v.  I come in different colors.  But mostly white."
-Corey.  Human snuggie.

Gerardo:  Can I borrow your skimmer thingy?
Merrell:  It's called a spider.
Gerardo:  I know a guy named spider.

Me:  Elton John has hairless balls?  What?
Goose and Dega:  I have hairless balls!
Me:  I hate you guys.

Me:  Would you bone down with a guy that wears a lot of gold jewelry?
Dega:  How much gold jewelry?
Me:  A lot.
Dega:  Hell yeah.  Mr. T?
Me:  You'd bone down with Mr. T?

Me:  Wouldn't that be cool?  If you had a hinge on your balls?  You could move them like this.
Goose:  Yeah.  But then you'd have to grease them.  You wouldn't want squeaky balls.

Merrell:  My stomach is getting flat.  See?
(Gerardo is watching the conversation.)
Merrell:  This doesn't concern you Gerardo.
Gerardo:  I was watching you touch yourself.

"I evaluate every stripper on a case by case basis."

Eddie:  You missed out.  I brought candy yesterday.
Corey:  What are you?  A pervert?  Halloween's over bro.

Eddie:  I think old people are cute.  I saw some old people going into Good Vibrations...
Corey:  Stop.  Stop.  Sentences should not include old people and Good Vibrations.

(Jamie is feeling my abs.)
Jamie:  You should feel his abs.  It's impressive. 
Merrell:  I'd rather feel yours.  (Jamie walks away)
Merrell:  Was that weird?

(Merrell walks into the corner of the stove.)
Me:  Did you just jab your pussy with the oven?
Merrell:  Yes.  Even though I don't have balls, it still hurts.
Me:  Graceful.  You're a real pageant queen.
Merrell:  I'm a fuckin lady.

from top:  sautee, line up, al, a gift from ryan farr, mer-mer's balls, where am i vol. 6, fuck you in your ear, super bowl, you figure it out