“Why does your food taste so good?” That was one of the most unusual, sincere compliments I recently received from my clients who I cook for as a personal chef in Naperville. He is the dad in a busy household full of teenagers and pre-teens. They wanted me to make regular weeknight meals; comfort food that the kids would love. One of the dishes I made was BBQ Meatballs. The dad thought, “Oh. Ok, that will probably be good, but nothing special.” He said he wasn’t expecting them to be so good. As a personal chef, I am always trying to bring my cooking to the next level, even if it’s a humble dish like meatloaf,  BBQ meatballs, or mashed potatoes. One of the ways I do this is by thinking how I can add Umami to a dish. If you’re not familiar with the term, it is a category of taste (in addition to sweet, sour, salty and bitter) that is almost undefinable. It is what makes you say “Mmmm” when you eat. It adds a depth and richness. Some items with natural umami are beef, mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, mushrooms and anchovies. There are lots of Umami items on the market now; mushroom powders, roasted tomatoes. I love thinking of ways to take the food to the next level and my personal chef clients seem to love it too!

“Fish sauce!  You put it in the meatloaf!?” Yes. I certainly did. I put it in the meatloaf. I know; it sounds crazy. Just trust me. 

As a personal chef, I am looking for ways to add complexity to a dish. To deepen the flavors. To make you say “Mmm. Why is this so good?” when you taste it. I don’t want it to be unfamiliar. Just better. Having read extensively about Umami, I am looking for ways to add it to dishes where you normally wouldn’t find it. I have worked as a personal chef in Glen Ellyn for a lovely family who loves good comfort food, but with a healthy flavorful slant. They love this meatloaf. Lots of aromatics, reduced tomato paste, a mix of meats, and a tiny bit of fish sauce make it really delicious.