In 1999, Chef Kaz Okochi opened the doors to what turned out to be one of Washington, DC’s most coveted seats and exceptional Japanese dining experiences, KAZ Sushi Bistro. This April marks KAZ Sushi Bistro’s 20th anniversary milestone. This modern Japanese restaurant is Chef Kaz’s window into creativity, where he pushes boundaries, and creates some of the most authentic yet groundbreaking Japanese dishes ever imagined. Always on the "cutting edge," Chef Kaz works with Japanese, Western, and other international flavors to create what he calls "freestyle Japanese cuisine"—original presentations, often with a modern twist.
KAZ Sushi Bistro has won numerous awards include 2000 RAMMY New Restaurant of the Year Finalist, 2006 & 2012 RAMMY Chef of the Year Finalist, 2006 RAMMY Informal Dining Restaurant of the Year, Washingtonian Magazine Best 100.
Many Washingtonians know Chef Kaz as the innovative Japanese chef who broke down barriers decades ago by being the first Chef in the nation’s capital to be trained in the art of preparing and serving fugu (or blowfish). He was also the first chef to introduce premium sake to the city and educating guests on the important parameters of the spirit such as its gravity (levels of sugar), acidity (which determines its sweetness or dryness), rice varietal, yeast strain (which determines the fragrance and flavor), and diverse grades (junmai, honjozo, ginjo and daiginjo).
Chef Kaz was also the chef who spearheaded new approaches to nigiri sushi like searing fish on top of nigiri and adding different toppings – a practice that is now common in many sushi restaurants. Throughout the years, his creative “free-style” techniques and approaches have been a source of inspiration to other local chefs and restaurants such as the Inn at Little Washington, where he taught the team how to prepare tuna tartare in a Japanese style and present it in a Western fashion.
Chef Kaz said, “We learned from each other. They learned about raw fish and Japanese cooking from me and I learned countlessly from them. It was really a life changing experience for me to not only cook with them, but to build lifelong friendships”.
Kaz is a SSI certified sake adviser and the first chef to serve Japanese premium sake in the nation’s capital in 1992. Also he is the first to serve fugu (blow fish) in 2001.
For more than 25 years, Kaz has been involved in many local charitable events as well as national and international food events and organizations. He is also a ten-year board member of RAMW (Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington) and a member of the prestigious U.S. State Department Culinary Diplomacy Partnership Initiative.