Talking about Umami

Statements from Culinary Experts and Researchers

Michael Anthony

Chef, Gramercy Tavern

Umami is a way to make dishes compelling yet keep them restrained. Discovering umami gives us a chance to create dishes that are irresistible even with just a few ingredients, because it brings the natural deliciousness of those ingredients to the fore.

Gary Beauchamp

Distinguished Member Emeritus Director, Monell Chemical Senses Center

Human breast milk is rich in umami. The high glutamate content of breast milk is the same for all humans, regardless of race.
From a young age, we have all been exposed to umami, and honed our taste for it. Even if we are unaware of it, umami is a taste familiar to us all from birth.


Owner chef, SaQuaNa

If I were to define umami, I would call it a comfortable taste. So I use it to give diners greater pleasure from their food. I want to keep making dishes that tap the power of umami in original ways, ranging freely beyond the bounds of convention and genre.

Mauro Colagreco

Owner chef, Mirazur

I don’t think that umami is something uniquely Japanese that Japan has transmitted to the rest of the world. It’s true that perhaps the West was not conscious of the umami taste, but I think that now recognition for umami is widening, and it’s being used in cuisine to a great extent.

Regis Cursan

Pastry chef, Nobu London

The first time I ate tamarillo I could feel something was different from other fruits. I later realized that thing was umami. Maybe I was the first one to discover umami in the tamarillo! Out of that discovery came the idea for a new dessert.

Toru Fushiki

Professor, Faculty of Agriculture, Ryukoku University(Japan)

In Japanese the word umami can mean either the fifth taste umami, or “deliciousness,” and right now the former is becoming an internationally-recognized term. Umami is not just about providing delicious food to the world community: I think it’s got more potential than that. By having our children learn about and experlence umami now, in the future, they will be able to contribute to the development of food, and help improve the health of the global community.

David Kinch

Owner chef, Manresa

Umami is an important factor in all of my dishes, for the balance of flavors and synergistic effects. I’m trying to reduce the fat in what is served at the restaurant, and umami not only makes for healthier food, but makes dishes delicious and satisfying.

Kenzo Kurihara

Professor emeritus, Hokkaido University

Umami is found universally in foods around the world, rounding other tastes to offer a smoother, more subtle flavor experience. Using foods particularly high in umami results in dishes with mellow taste.

Harold McGee

Food writer

There is really no good culinary way of doing what time (aging, fermentation or curing) does, unfortunately. So when it comes to cooking and umami at least from my perspective it is really a matter of choosing the right ingredients to begin with and then not losing it once you have got it.

Virgilio Martinez

Owner chef, Central

As a chef, discovering the umami taste changed my way of thinking about cooking. I play with umami a lot more in the cold preparations, to enhance the taste of raw seafood with just a little seasoning and using the taste of the product to my advantage.

Nobuyuki Matsuhisa

Owner chef, Nobu

What I always keep in mind when using umami in cooking is maintaining a balance with the other four tastes. Combining umami in a balanced way with other basic tastes such as sour and sweet gives flavors a wellrounded quality.
I intend to keep spreading the word about umami internationally, while incorporating local ingredients and flavors.

Julie Menella

Member, Monell Chemical Senses Center

The umami substance glutamate is one of the amino acids and is contained in many foods such as breast milk. Our research made clear that newborn babies innately like umami. In addition, by being fed with breast milk and eating traditional foods, fondness for umami is enhanced.

Gabriella Morini

Assistant Professor of the University of Gastronomic Sciences

The umami of glutamate is the taste that humans, who learnt how to cook with fire and preserve food, have pursued throughout history. Therefore, umami is the most human taste.

Ole G. Mouritsen

Professor, University of Southern Denmark and Nordic Food Lab

In Nordic countries, we have utilized umami in traditional cooking more or less unconsciously. In recent years, umami has become a well-known concept and is used to enhance and describe deliciousness in e.g., cheeses and fermented products. Most recently Nordic seaweeds have been proposed for preparing dashi.

Yoshihiro Murata

Owner, Kikunoi

Interest in umami is blossoming among top chefs overseas. Umami is a part of Japanese culture of which we can be proud, that we should feel confident taking to the world. Umami is poised to explode on the international gastronomic scene.

Keiko Nagae

Pastry chef

While each ingredient here has its own distinct character, none dominates: thus balance is maintained. Tastes change as you eat, with umami lingering afterwards. Desserts that feature all five basic tastes are satisfying because umami compensates for any reduction in sugar.

John Prescott

Food consultant

Most of our dishes use tomatoes, stock, and vegetables that are sources of umami. I think that Western consumers have been very familiar with umami quality, but have used the term ‘savory’, which most likely reflects not only the taste component (umami) but also the odour/flavour component. It hasn’t been clear to most people that there is a distinct taste like sweetness that is umami.

Yasuhiro Sasajima

Owner chef Il Ghiottone

Italian cooking has no dashi concept, but does make generous use of umami foods such as tomatoes, cheese, cured ham and porcini. An opportunity to grapple with Buddhist vegetarian cooking for an Italian recipe book using Kyoto vegetables gave me a new appreciation of the influence of umami and kombu dashi, and transformed my view of cooking.

Laura Santtini

Cooking expert

The big misunderstanding is that because umami is a Japanese word used to describe ‘savory deliciousness’ that umami must therefore be a Japanese or a Far Eastern concept. This is simply not so. To taste umami is like experiencing the feelings of love; the experiencing of umami is absolutely universal and does not, and cannot possibly belong to any single culture, but is shared, enjoyed and appreciated by all those in possession of a tongue.

Pedro Miguel Schiaffino

Owner chef, Malabar

Umami creates deep taste and harmony. By combining umami ingredients, I can come up with dishes that are balanced and full of rich flavor. There are a lot of Peruvian ingredients rich in umami, and I love using them in the food at my restaurant.

Koji Shimomura

Owner chef, Edition Koji Shimomura

Umami allows you to create dishes flavorsome yet light. It also strikes me that umami can be used to keep food appetizing in environments where impact on sense of taste is a concern, such as inflight meals. I imagine that from here on, chefs will need to learn increasingly more about umami and how to make the most of it.

Yoshihiro Takahashi

Fifteenth-generationowner chef, Hyotei

The stronger the flavor of the ingredients, the greater the need for the dashi to have umami to match: without it, the taste will be unbalanced. Conversely, if the balance is right, the tastes of the ingredients really stand out. This is what we mean by making the most of the ingredients. Dishes with umami linger on the palate pleasantly, and make a powerful impression; these are striking dishes that reassure and warm us.

Takashi Tamura

Third-generation owner,Tsukiji Tamura

I believe we Japanese have the instinctive ability at cellular level to detect umami. Accustomed from a young age to food made with dashi, we naturally learn to sense subtle, delicate umami flavors wherever they may be. You could say that umami is in our DNA.

Kunio Tokuoka

Executive Chef of Arashiyama Headquarters of Kyoto KITCHO

The important thing to understand is which foods can be combined with umami, and how to eat them. Understanding umami allows you to try out new ingredient combinations. It’s the entwining of multiple ingredients that produces taste of depth and intensity.

Yuji Wakiya

Owner chef, Wakiya Ichiemi-charo

Tang in Chinese cuisine comes in more variations than the dashi in Japanese cooking. Different types are skillfully divided into different uses, and blended to produce well-balanced, sophisticated stocks. These stocks can transform even a bland ingredient like harusame into an elegant, flavorsome dish. This is the secret of braised dishes in Chinese cooking.

Hiroshi Yamaguchi

General manager/head chef, Kobe Kitano Hotel

In French cuisine, seasonings are prepared from the foods. When the tastes of various ingredients expand from point to line to surface, it is umami that draws out the flavors of those ingredients and renders them harmonious. Umami plays a huge role in the creation of unique French recipes that excite and astound.