At the Bar: What Umami is All About

Downtown Chicago on a fall evening

By Mark Hinds | Updated May 6, 2021

As I’ve transitioned to working full-time at Umami, over the past several months, people have been asking me what Umami is about and why I would want to start an online publishing company, when so much of my background has been in running nonprofits.

The simple answer is I was ready for a different type of challenge.  As I thought about the next chapter in my life, I knew I wanted to find a job that encouraged my curiosity and creativity.  I also wanted a job where I could and should be working anywhere in the world.

After working in the nonprofit/political world for most of the past twenty years, I’ve found that the most rewarding part of my work has been helping people tell their stories and working with creative folks who are curious about helping people understand the world around us and how people live.

What is Umami

Umami is an online food and travel magazine with a simple mission to help people expand their taste by exploring our world.  At Umami, we are trying to tell the stories about food that matter. We strive to dig deeper to help people understand why something works, to learn techniques they can use, to explore where our food comes from, and what it means to people’s lives.

At Umami you’ll have the chance to read about: places we love, find great recipes, have conversations with the people who produce our food, learn about the cultural significance of dishes, food science, and hopefully develop a better understanding of the politics and business side of the food industry.  Our goal is to become an essential publication for people interested in food and drink.

Why We Chose Umami

When we were thinking about names, we wanted something intriguing, something that had a sense of wonder to it and drew people in.  As one of the five basic flavors (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami) umami is the least understood in western cooking.  What we like about using Umami as our name is that the role it often plays in cooking is to linger on the palate and help bring out and enhance a dish’s flavors.

How Does the Business Work

Whenever people ask me about Umami, I can tell when they’re getting ready to ask me the $64,000 question, which is how do you make money.  It’s easy to understand where the question comes from, from a reader’s perspective almost everything we read on the internet is free, which can make it hard for people to understand how an online publication makes money.

For right now Umami is mostly supported by ads; essentially we get paid when people click on them.  We’re also in the process of building an online market that will become a full-service kitchen store and specialty food shop.  There are a few other things in the works for down the road.

What Does Success Look Like for Umami

One of the hardest questions for a new business is to understand what success looks like.  In some ways, it would be easy to say Umami will be successful when we make lots of money, but that’s not what Umami is about.

At Umami, we’re trying to build a business that provides creative storytellers with the opportunity and resources to focus on their craft, rather than trying to hunt down their next assignment.

So we’ll know we’re a success when we’re producing great stories and recipes that people are using to expand their horizons and our contributors have the resources and support they need to be producing compelling content.

How to Support Umami

I’ve had a lot of friends ask how they can help support Umami, a question I’m always thankful to hear.  Whether or not Umami is successful will largely depend on our ability to develop a loyal base of readers. So the first way people can help is to visit on a regular basis.  We’re currently publishing new pieces three to four times a week and have a great newsletter that we publish every other Thursday.

The second is to follow and share the pieces you like with your friends, family, strangers walking down the street, etc… we’re not very picky.  You also can connect with us on Facebook @ and Twitter @

We love to hear people’s ideas, whether they have questions on how to make something or would just love to learn more about where something comes from.  If you have an idea or questions, please drop me a note at

Mark Hinds is the Founder and Publisher of Umami, his “At the Bar” columns are his excuse to spend time in great bars “conducting research” and writing about what’s happening with Umami and in life.

Mark is an experienced food writer, recipe developer, and photographer who is also Umami’s publisher and CEO. A passionate cook who loves to cook for friends, he can often be found in the kitchen or by the grill testing new recipes.

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