It’s ramen night at Richard Blais’s house, where the broth is homemade and the toppings are whatever’s handy: Veggies, seaweed snacks—even hot dogs. See how this top chef and his daughters, Riley, 9, and Embry, 6, noodle around.

richard blais and daughter sip ramen
“When you’re trying to get kids to eat something new, they have to get involved with it,” says Richard Blais, seen here with his daughter Riley. “It’s like art—if they make it, they love it.”
| Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson

Celeb chef Richard Blais has had a killer career. He trained at California's legendary French Laundry and Chez Panisse, wrote two cookbooks (so far), and launched a handful of restaurants (including San Diego's popular Juniper & Ivy). 

But the Top Chef alum, who lives in San Diego with his wife and two daughters, credits his TV work with preparing him for his greatest cooking challenge: pleasing his kids. 

"On these shows, you have time limits. And when you're cooking at home, you have hungry kids and you need to get a meal on the table before band practice," he says. 

To win at family dinner, Richard has a few strategies. First, choose something customizable. "I love themes," he says. "Ramen night, pizza night. Kids can choose—if they like olives, they can add a lot." 

ramen bowl with egg
Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson

Next, have the right tools, like a pressure cooker, which makes his flavorful broth in 10 minutes. 

Finally, relax the rules. "If there's a chicken tender in the kids' ramen, it's not authentic, but they're still exposed to a different type of food," he says. "It's more than just dinner. It's an opportunity to introduce kids to different cultures."

"It's all about finding those umami-rich ingredients and making something delicious."

blais daughters
“Ramen is a kitchen-sink kind of dish,” says Richard, so Riley and Embry (above) are free to add whatever toppings strike their fancy.
| Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson

Recipe: Use-It-Up Ramen

use it up ramen
Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson

Try Richard's Use It Up Ramen

blais and daughters cook ramen
“They’re curious cooks,” Richard says of his daughters. “They want to be near the stove and by the cutting board.”
| Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson

To Top It Off

ramen toppings
Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson

Ramen is way more fun when you pile it high with tasty garnishes. This list will get you started.

  1. Canned Corn
  2. Chili oil
  3. Cooked bacon
  4. Fried onions
  5. Frozen peas
  6. Leftover chicken, turkey, or pork
  7. Leftover hot dogs
  8. Nori or seaweed snacks
  9. Pea shoots
  10. Scallions
  11. Shredded cabbage
  12. Sliced bamboo shoots
  13. Soft- or hard-boiled eggs
  14. Thinly sliced carrots
  15. Toasted sesame oil
  16. Togarashi (a spicy Japanese seasoning blend that typically includes chiles)

blais daughter eating ramen
Embry is an adventurous eater: She likes seaweed and greens in her bowl.
| Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson


For more mealtime fun, check out Yum-o! (, Rach's nonprofit organization. You'll find recipes, tips for improving food in schools, and stories of people who are changing the way America eats. How cool is that?!