Wellness isn’t just about moving our bodies or eating healthy, it’s a mind, body and soul process—one that author and celebrity chef Candice Kumai is addressing in her new book, “Kintsugi Wellness” (Harper Collins, April 2018), which debuts today. The golden girl of the wellness world, Kumai blends the wisdom of her Japanese heritage and more than 40 California-inspired Japanese recipes to help readers master the art of nourishing the mind, body and soul.
24Life asked the wellness warrior to share her inspiration behind her latest book, a favorite recipe from the book and how she has learned to embrace her flaws.
24Life: What inspired you to write “Kintsugi Wellness”?
Candice Kumai: My mom is the inspiration for this book. She continually inspires me every day in her devotion to the Japanese culture, even though she has been in the United States for more than 40 years. She instilled Japanese traditions and philosophies all throughout my upbringing and still, to this day, I honor and credit her for my appreciation of Japanese wellness, and the balance and grace it has brought to my life. This is my gift to her.
24Life: What is kintsugi? Why did you choose this for the name of your book?
CK: Kintsugi is the Japanese practice and artistry of sealing cracks (“imperfections”) with gold. I chose this name because kintsugi teaches us to see imperfection as beauty. It gives us strength through reflection and self-love, and I believe the practice of kintsugi is the main reason why the Japanese maintain their health and happiness so gracefully.
24Life: Who is this book written for?
CK: This book is written for everyone. It is about healing, acceptance and celebrating your imperfections. It offers practices applicable to all struggles and I hope anyone can connect and learn from it and be inspired. I do especially think young, adult women will appreciate this book, as I wish I had followed more of these principles in college!
Also the recipes in this book are magic, so whether or not you love cooking, you will love the book’s unique, feel-good recipes.
24Life: What do you hope readers take from this book?
CK: It was written with the intent to share my heritage and my family’s traditions that I grew up with. I want to give readers a new perspective on life. I wish for everyone to find more peace and love, more bravery and strength in their life.
24Life: How has your Japanese heritage influenced your relationship with your health?
CK: My Japanese heritage has influenced my healthy lifestyle in so many ways! From kaizen (continuous improvement) to wabi sabi (embracing imperfection) and kansha (gratitude)—I use these principles every single day. The Japanese live an extremely balanced lifestyle and practice moderation and humility. Japanese cuisine is made with tradition, and we honor our ancestors through the foods we eat. Japanese recipes are indulgent and comforting in their own way (umami flavors, miso, fresh ramen noodles and rice), so it’s easy to feel satisfied without overdoing it.
24Life: What are some traditional Japanese practices you do every day for wellness?
CK: A few principles I use every day include the traditional matcha tea ceremony, the practice of kaizen and ganbatte ne (always doing your best). Every morning and throughout the day, I prepare matcha tea the way my ancestors did: Using ceremonial-grade matcha tea powder, a ceramic proper matcha bowl and a chasen (whisk). While the whole process is short (see my recipe here), it requires focus so it really grounds you, gives you a moment to appreciate something as simple as a cup of tea. Plus, it’s health benefits are incredible—antioxidants and vitamins, much healthier than coffee.
Because my work as a wellness writer and chef requires innovation and skill, I focus on kaizen (continuous improvement) to better my writing, my recipes and my creativity. There is always room for improvement and kaizen to me is a healthier approach than the “practice makes perfect” ideal.
Ganbatte ne translates to “always do your best.” This is a common phrase in the Japanese language and is also used as a salutation. My mom would tell my sisters “ganbatte ne” every day when we were dropped off at school. We are given one life to live, so why not always do your best?
24Life: What are your favorite recipes in the book, and why?
CK: That’s a tough question because I had to cut so many recipes out for my final draft! I really love the Spicy Miso Tahini Ramen because it so indulgent, not only because of its rich flavors, but because it makes you feel great.
I also love my Vegan Matcha Chocolate Chip cookies, which were adapted from a recipe I created years ago (made with banana!) but are now upgraded with matcha. They are super addictive and amazing! I am grateful to say that I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love them once they try them.
24Life: What are some things the Japanese culture/tradition knows about healthy living that the American culture does not (yet) practice?
CK: I definitely think that the Japanese are cutting-edge when it comes to simplicity. Americans typically prefer everything to be “big and the best,” while the Japanese focus on simple pleasures and self-fulfillment. I hope Americans who read this book find inspiration from this simplicity, because even small changes like remembering wabi sabi, and knowing that your imperfections make you beautiful, will improve your life beyond measure!
24Life: How does embracing our “flaws” make us healthier? What are some of your own “flaws” that you have learned to celebrate?
CK: There are certain things we cannot change about ourselves and, unfortunately, a lot of things we can’t change we see as flaws. I want to change people’s mindset in that way. As a little girl, I was teased for how I looked. I’ve embraced my previous insecurities and turned them into my confidence. I also used to look at my past relationships and hardships as losses, but now I look at them as blessings and experiences that have made me stronger and gotten me closer to the relationships I’ve maintained throughout my life.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Candice Kumai