Adam Fleischman, the chef behind Umami Burger restaurants and UMAMIcatessen, understands the power of the “fifth taste.” His restaurants have gained a devoted following since the first opened in 2009, thanks to Fleischman’s passion for exploring the science of flavor.
Summer is here, and we’re ready to grill — and Fleischman is the perfect person to inspire us along the way. After he shared two exclusive recipes with Williams-Sonoma this month, I asked him to share some of his insights about burgers, umami and flawless flavor.
Q: How did you become involved in the food business? And why burgers?
A: I have always loved eating and wine. I chose burgers because they pack a lot of flavor into a small package — and they have lots of umami.
Q: Why do you think Umami Burger has been so successful? How many restaurants are open now?
A: We have nine restaurants. I believe they are successful because of our new spin on a classic dish. We’re looking forward to the future for a new generation of eaters.
Q: How is the concept behind Umami Burger different from other burger restaurants?
A: We focus on the fifth taste.
Q: What gives a burger the “umami” quality?
A: The seasonings we make, the ingredients we select and the techniques we use.
Q: What are your ideal burger toppings? How do you feel about condiments?
A: Mushrooms and pickles. I like a little bit of condiments, but nothing too overwhelming.
Q: How do you come up with new flavor ideas?
A: Though brainstorming and eating around the world.
Q: What’s the inspiration behind the recipes you developed for Williams-Sonoma?
A: I was inspired by the flavors and smells of a backyard barbecue.
Q: Any expert burger-making or grilling tips?
A: Always have enough firepower. Cast iron is key.
Q: You started out as a wine guy. What do you drink with your burgers at a cookout?
A: Rosé from Provence, a great Syrah or Zinfandel.