Sweet. Sour. Salty. Bitter. These basic components of taste have recently been joined by “umami,” the current darling of foodies that describes the subtle savory flavor that occurs naturally in meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. While it is not as easily discernable as the immediate reaction elicited by the taste of lemon, for example, it nonetheless plays an important role in making our food pleasantly palatable. In this vein, I would like to propose a sixth taste in the tongue’s repertoire: passion. All chefs prepare food, but passion for the craft imparts a depth to the dining experience that leaves all the senses satiated by the meal’s end. Mark Wombles of Heirloom Restaurant in Midway is a chef that clearly cooks with passion. Having reached his five-year anniversary, Chef Wombles says with pride that he can now officially call himself an “established” restaurateur.
While a student at the University of Kentucky, in short order Wombles became more interested in extracurricular activities than class work. He made the fortuitous decision to quit school and take a job as a cook at the Merrick Inn in Lexington, an experience that provided him with the “aha” moment to visualize his future. At the urging of his family, he looked into formal culinary school, ultimately deciding on the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco over the CIA in Hyde Park, New York, largely to take advantage of California’s more temperate climes. He successfully balanced his studies and an apprenticeship with James Beard winner Chef Michael Mina at Aqua, a bastion of fine dining in the Financial District. Upon graduation, Wombles says that while he would have happily remained in San Francisco, the exorbitant cost of living helped him to make the decision to return closer to home, where his ultimate goal was to open his own restaurant.