HFor professionally trained chef, best-selling author, and wellness journalist Candice Kumai, well-being is simple. She grew up in Southern California, and her family and upbringing inspired a philosophy that allows her to a embrace a mindful and open approach to life — and to cooking. “My mother is Japanese, so her cooking style has always been about merging cultures,” she recalls. “It was eating real, delicious foods from my Japanese heritage, blended with California produce.”
When Kumai enrolled in culinary school and cooked on the line at the age of 22, she took the values from her childhood and infused them into her cooking philosophy, emphasizing the benefits of healthy eating. “My cooking didn’t just become, ‘Hey, guys, we’re going to make a pot of chili today,’” she explains. “What’s more important to me is teaching people, ‘We’re going to make miso soup with sea veggies and shiitake mushrooms — and here’s what they’re going to do for your body.’”
Today, Kumai continues to find her purpose in helping people realize that living a nutritious, happy life is less complicated than they think — and can be achieved at any age.
According to Kumai, anyone can adopt a healthy, mindful lifestyle. During her Mindful Mealtimes workshop at the Quaker Rise & Thrive Wellness Festival, a wellness event held on Nov. 3 in Malibu, Calif., she shared her tips on how to get started:
Kaizen, the Japanese word for “improvement,” has become a key part of Kumai’s positive mindset, and she says that keeping it top of mind can benefit everyone. “Kaizen is a concept that anybody can use at any point in their life,” she explains. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or if you’re 70… You can be better than you once were. You can continuously climb the hill.”
But expect wabi-sabi
Even as she strives for constant improvement, Kumai maintains perspective by reminding herself that she will probably face failure at some point, and that’s okay. Kumai has learned to completely embrace wabi-sabi — a Japanese term for life’s imperfect moments. “[It is] the gray area between the exciting beginning and the strong finish line,” Kumai explains. “[It’s vital to remember that life is] a roller coaster of emotions… It’s not going to be perfect.”
Find your community
Growing up, Kumai was taught the importance of community, and she has since blended that value into her own rituals, both in and out of the kitchen. “Love was really our common denominator in life, and helping others was the most important thing no matter where you came from,” she recalls. Even in culinary school, Kumai was inspired by the unity that’s interwoven into cooking. “Sitting around a communal table and eating together brings families back together,” she says.
Focus on feeling good
In a society that too often emphasizes how we look, Kumai has found true happiness in focusing on how she feels instead. Kumai grew up eating foods from her Japanese heritage, and even when she merged her cooking style with her American surroundings, she kept the same philosophy: Do what feels good. “What is more important than looking good is feeling good,” she explains. “Once you find out the benefits of cooking better for yourself and nourishing yourself… [you’ll find that it will] help you feel your best.”