Kaz Okochi was born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. After completing his studies in fine art in Oklahoma in 1982 he returned to Japan to attend Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, one of Japan's premier culinary schools. At Tsuji he became interested in French cuisine and also explored such fields as Chinese cooking, pastry, ice carving, and, of course, traditional Japanese fare. Around this time he began to dream of returning to the United States and developing his own style of Japanese cuisine.
Kaz studied in Osaka for five more years to complete his formal training in sushi and fugu (blowfish) preparation. In 1988, Kaz's U.S. dream began to take shape when he came to Washington, D.C., to work at Sushi-Ko, Washington's oldest sushi bar. As Executive Chef, Kaz was involved in both food preparation and the many aspects of restaurant management. He was one of the first Japanese chefs in America to develop modern menu items from old, time-honored Japanese recipes, and he was the first to introduce premium Japanese sakes to the nation's capital in 1992.
In 1999, Chef Kaz Okochi opened KAZ Sushi Bistro in downtown Washington, D.C. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) named KAZ Sushi Bistro one of the year's top five new restaurants, and it quickly became one of the capital area's hottest Japanese dining destinations. Since then KAZ Sushi Bistro has won many honors, including the 2006 RAMMY Award for Informal Dining Restaurant of the Year. 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.
Along with Chef Roberto Donna, Chef Michel Richard, Chef Jeff Buben, and others, Kaz Okochi is one of the original members of DC Chef's Club, founded to honor the legendary Chef Jean-Louis Palladin, who passed away in 2001. Kaz is involved in many local charity events, as well as national and international food organizations and events.
Today Kaz has added yet another feather to his hat with Washington’s hotspot Masa 14. Masa 14 features a menu of Latin-Asian small plates, designed for sharing and sampling by Kaz and another acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval.