Adam Fleischman is the creative force behind Umami Burger, a Los Angeles-based restaurant group that has elevated the all-American burger to new heights of flavor—and earned a devoted following since the first location opened in 2009.
The secret ingredient in its success is a menu built around the Japanese concept of umami. Adam describes umami as "the fifth primary taste," in addition to the four basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
Japanese scientists have identified umami as the pleasant, meaty and savory taste that occurs naturally in many foods. From anchovies, tomatoes and Parmesan to soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms, umami-rich ingredients are the key to the great flavors at Adam's signature restaurants.
Adam's fascination with the science of flavor comes by way of his years in the wine business. He's worked for leading wine retailers and importers—and founded two of LA's first wine bars, BottleRock and Vinoteque.
This year, the self-taught chef is launching Umami Ko (U-Ko), a quick-serve version of the UMAMI Burger concept he hopes to expand nationwide. Adam is also the owner of UMAMIcatessen, his take on the classic American deli. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Shanna, and their two children.
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?
A: Mushrooms and pickles.
Q: What do you drink with your burgers at a cookout?
A: A rosé from Provence, a great Syrah or Zinfandel.
Q: How did you become involved in the food business? And why burgers?
A: I've always loved eating and wine. I focus on burgers because they pack a lot of flavor into a small package, and they have lots of umami.