Kaizen = Continuous Improvement: In Fine Dining…and Kayaking

sea kayaker in the ocean

Mark Lutz is a fine dining chef who advocates what the Japanese call kaizen, which means “continuous improvement.” Mark is also an avid sea kayaker who applies kaizen to his paddling as well.

Take a look at the video below for Mark’s story: 

What Is Kaizen?

Kaizen (pronounced ‘ky-zen’) is the idea that we make incremental, continuous improvement in whatever we’re doing. In Mark’s case, it’s in his cooking and his sea kayaking.

He admits than when he started cooking at 15 years old, it wasn’t because he enjoyed it. It was because he wanted another job to earn enough money to travel for months at a time.

Before long, though, he realized he was enjoyed the process of cooking. It eventually became a passion of his, especially the world of fine dining. He realized the atmosphere of a kaizen kitchen is one he thrives in.

The creative possibilities, the attention to detail needed, the choice ingredients, even the immense pressure all combine into an environment Mark loves. The challenge of constantly improving his cooking—kaizen—makes him feel alive.

mark lutz in his kaizen kitchen

Since his first expedition chef gig at age 23, Mark has camped and cooked outdoors in 45 different countries including Colombia, Argentina, Australia, China and Turkey.

As you can imagine, applying kaizen can be very personal. For Mark, it’s that he enjoys telling a story through the ingredients about the area he’s in. For example, in the video he’s on a tiny island off the coast of Boston that’s not far from his home. The ingredients he chooses for his cooking there are on the island itself. He brings that same story telling idea to his work as a chef in the kitchen.

What Does Kaizen Have to Do with Kayaking?

Mark says, “I work in this pressure-cooker environment where it’s high stress all the time. You never stop. It’s kind of anxiety-inducing. When I’m paddling, particularly in the ocean, you forget about all that…it’s a meditative kind of thing. It’s just me and the water and my boat. I don’t have to worry about the rest of the world. It doesn’t exist to me at that moment.”

Kaizen—the constant improvement of even tiny details—applies to sea kayaking as much as to fine dining, believes Mark.

“I learn just a little bit more every time I go out, and I improve as a sea kayaker.”

A key idea behind kaizen is that it’s both a mental and physical challenge to keep improving. It’s doesn’t happen overnight, but requires patience and dedication over time. It requires focus on the small things that make a difference.

As kayakers—or paddle boarders, canoeists, whitewater paddlers, packrafters—a world of paddling opportunity awaits us the more we improve our craft of paddling.

When we go after that continuous improvement, we’re able to take on more challenges in our boats, in different types of water and conditions.

mark lutz sea kayaking

And the more improvement, the more enjoyment we experience. The more reward.

Kaizen sounds like a pretty good word to live by!

Let our friendly Customer Service Team help you pick out your next kayak paddle today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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