The Next Level In Taste
At a wine tasting event several weeks ago, I noticed a man talking to a friend of mine wearing the iconic Umami Burger logo on his shirt. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last 2 and a half years, you have likely come across an Umami Burger. Deemed the 5th taste, Umami is a genre of flavor that has taken off especially in the Southern California Market.
It turned my friend was talking to the man behind the burger, Adam Fleischman. We started talking about food of course and I asked him what other restaurants he liked in the area. He mentioned Red Medicine to which I replied, “Yuck, I have heard the worst things about that place, my friend said that they had walkie talkies and were so obnoxious!” Way to stick my size 7.5 in my even larger mouth. Adam took a beat, turned to me and said, “I own that space.” I was mortified. Thankfully It ended up that I was not talking about Red Medicine at all but another similarly named restaurant in the area. Needless to say I was sure Adam would not soon forget me.
I had a chance to sit down with Adam (who was wearing another umami shirt) to talk about the successes of Umami Burger and what was next for the new restuaranteur.
LK: Ok I have to ask, how many of those shirts do you have?
AF: I have 27 shirts, but I retire them when they get too funky.
LK: You were in the wine business for 5 years before you opened your first Umami Burger, how did you learn about the umami flavor and what made you make the switch?
AF: I learned about it from French cooking actually and I started studying the flavors. I realized that most umami was found in burgers and pizza so I knew I wanted to focus on those industries. I also realized that there was no industry that was devoted to that taste, so that’s how it came about.
LK: Why do you think this idea has been so successful, aside from the flavors and quality of the ingredients?
AF: We do 12 things to our burgers that no one else does, most of it is proprietary, but I can tell you one of the things we do to improve the burger is by doing own grinding. When you buy ground meat it loses a lot of the love, we like doing it the hard way.
LK: When was the first moment you knew it was going to be a success?
AF: I knew when I created the concept, the first burger I made I gave to a friend who was a chef and we knew it was a winner. I probably made the first 10,000 burgers in my kitchen in my caste iron pan.
LK: do you ever get sick of burgers and where does your appetite take you when you do?
AF: Of course, it’s like anything you need change. I love pizza, Japanese, really everything. My favorite spots now are more on the fine dining side like Cube and Bouchon. Places like those were inspiration for this restaurant because we try to use a lot of fine dining techniques but do it in a fast way so you don’t have to wait 15 minutes for a quality burger.
LK: Of course everyone wants to know what is your favorite Umami Burger?
AF: Right now I’d have to say the hatch burger but the umami burger is really the signature burger. All our burgers are done from the heart and when it’s done like that and not cookie cutter and corporate, people really responds.
LK: what are the next steps for UB?
AF: We are opening 5 more in San Francisco, then we will be opening in San Diego and New York. Our next concept will be Pizzerias which we are really excited about.
LK: Of course I always have to ask what are the 3 things you can’t live without in your kitchen?
LK: If you could give advice to a budding restauranteur what would that be?
AF: I never give advice or wisdom because I never take it myself, so I guess my advice would be to defy all conventional advice.
I thanked Adam who busily checked his phone and began to head back to his office. He stopped, turned back to me and said, “For the record, I would never use walkie talkies.”
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