NOTE: Chef Ernesto Uchimura left Plan Check in the spring of 2016
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Nearly half of all American consumers eat a burger a week. With such a large consumer base, it’s no wonder why there are so many different burger concepts at various price points to satiate this hunger. From the value menu to haute gourmet cuisine, the Los Angeles region is well represented at all these pricing levels. Los Angeles also has a long history of embellishing the burger, in the past adding cheese and, more recently, up scaling the burger with better cuts of meat and different seasonings. At the forefront of this up scaling the burger trend, Plan Check Kitchen + Bar’s Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura continues to create recipes and utilize modernist cooking techniques to further innovate with what can be done to perfect this humble American comfort food as well as other items on his new restaurant’s menu.
French trained at Paul Smith’s College in Upstate New York, and with jobs working in various Los Angeles kitchens (including Napa Valley Grille, Meson G’s tapas style cuisine under the direction of Josef Centino, Opus and as Executive Chef at the closed Santa Monica’s Punch Grille), Uchimura’s training brings a different broader perspective to this burger concept segment. Born in Argentina to a Jewish Argentine mother, and a Japanese Argentine father, Ernesto Uchimura’s heritage also influences his approach to grilling meats, blending ingredients and creating what Uchimura refers to as “modern American comfort food” drawing from the influences of many of America’s immigrants.
After Punch Grill closed, a brief two month stint cooking burgers at a tavern, positioned Uchimura well for his next endeavor as executive chef for Umami Burger where he shared an appreciation for Heston Blumethal’s techniques (as well as Blumethal’s book “Dashi and Umami: The Heart of Japanese Cuisine”) with Umami’s owner Adam Fleischman. Borrowing from the notion of Michel Richard’s lobster burger, Fleischman had a concept for a gourmet burger, not nostalgic, but forward thinking with different flavor profiles utilizing umami to appeal to a slightly more upscale clientele to pair with wines rather than drink with soda. But since Fleischman isn’t a chef, a week before the first Umami Burger opened; Fleischman hired Uchimura who, in turn with Fleishman’s approval, developed this concept burger’s recipes and operation procedures. As Umami expanded, Uchimura scouted locations, established a commissary kitchen and further developed standards. However, after Fleischman joined forces with SBE, Fleischman decided to go a different direction with his management and changes were made.
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