image from lenaibojcdruz on everystockphoto.com

I first learned about the Japanese philosophy of kaizen in the context of crafting better presentations, from Garr Reynold’s blog. It refers to a process of continuous small improvements, which was popularized by the Toyota company. If I needed to choose the most useful lesson from my interactions with the guest chefs’ visits during the Science and Cooking class last semester, it would be kaizen. More specifically, most of the chefs that I met took extensive notes, which they used to refine their cuisine.

  • Ferran Adria has kept exhaustive notes of every dish that he has made over the past several decades.
  • Jose Andres, who was an apprentice under Ferran, keeps a red notebook with him, which he uses to continually collect new inspirations for recipes or other culinary endeavors.
  • Grant Achatz uses a combination of photography and videos to record his experiments and travels, as well as notebooks to record his ideas for new dishes. There are quite a few examples on-line, such as the Aviary YouTube channel and this slideshow.
  • Wylie Dufresne has binders full of recipes and records from kitchen experiments, such as attempts to make noodles with transglutaninase.
  • Dan Barber keeps meticulous electronic records of the soil conditions, animal family trees, and everything else relevant to the raw ingredients for his kitchen.
  • David Chang learned about kaizen during his apprenticeship in Japan and writes about this in his cookbook (“No matter how happy we are with a dish, the kitchen ethos at Momofuku dictates that it can always be tweaked or altered or interpreted differently.”)

Kaizen is the reason that I started this blog, so that I have a daily record of my own quest for continual, incremental improvement.

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