My Kitchen Essentials: Easy Rules to Live By from Chef Candice Kumai

Photo courtesy of Kyle Jackson

Candice Kumai has held almost every job possible in the food world. The author of six books has been a line cook, a food editor, a contestant on Top Chef, and a judge on Iron Chef, and last year, she taught Selena Gomez how to cook ramen on the singer’s quarantine cooking show. Kumai’s food career started at age five, she says, when she first visited her grandparents in Japan. “We had miso soup for breakfast—and my head basically exploded,” says Kumai. “My baachan, which is grandmother in Japanese, taught my sister and I how to cook washoku, traditional Japanese food, at home. It’s not fancy food, but it is certainly delicious and simple and very clean.”

Candice Kumai

Photo courtesy of Julia Liebowitz

Kumai kept her family’s legacy, values, and recipes close as she navigated first culinary school and then the male-dominated food world. “I stayed mindful, and I was graceful,” she says. “I had this Scottie Pippen mentality of never getting paid what I was actually worth but knowing how innately talented I was deep inside. And that the right people at the right time would find me and say, ‘It’s your time—go ride this wave right now because you’ve earned it.’”

Now Kumai, who’s a guest contributor for the Today show, just wrote, directed, and produced a new documentary series, Kintsugi Wellness, based on her last book. “Kintsugi is the Japanese practice of repairing broken vessels by sealing the cracks with lacquer and dusting them with gold powder,” says Kumai. The book, which is part memoir, part delicious Japanese cookbook, expands on the idea that your broken places make you stronger and better than you were before. Kumai is using her multiple platforms to raise awareness about the AAPI community. “People have to educate themselves on Asia and the beautiful diversity of the countries in it,” says Kumai. One place to start: “Buy books written by Asians,” she says. “There’s finally this opportunity for everyone to reeducate themselves on this problem that’s never been addressed.”

Kumai, whose clean style of cooking was inspired all those years ago, is full of tips to make your kitchen a happier, healthier, more sustainable place.


We hope you enjoy the products recommended here. Our goal is to suggest only things we love and think you might, as well. We also like transparency, so, full disclosure: We may collect a share of sales or other compensation if you purchase through the external links on this page (including links to Amazon).