Podcast Episode 113: The Art & Science of MSG & Umami – Chef Chris Koetke & Dr. Tia Rains

Feb 21, 2019

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Disclosure: I want to thank Ajinomoto for inviting me to the World Umami Forum and for their support and sponsorship of this podcast series. Please note that guest views do not necessarily reflect those of Ajinomoto.

This is a 3-part series on Umami & MSG – or monosodium glutamate. In this series, I’m speaking with four different experts to explore the largely untold history, research on the safety, culinary applications – and even some potential health benefits and current research approaches. What you learn may surprise you!

MSG is one of the most beloved and vilified ingredients in American history.

It’s a staple for home cooks and world-renowned chefs, yet it’s a subject of skepticism as brands and restaurants promote “MSG-free” foods and dishes.

Last September, I was invited to attend the World Umami Forum in New York City, an event hosted by Ajinomoto, the world’s first and leading manufacturer of MSG. What I learned was so compelling that I decided to do a series of episodes so that I could interview several of the speakers and experts that I met at the conference and bring their knowledge to you. You’ll hear from a food historian and author, a registered dietitian, a research and food industry scientist, and also a chef.

Dr. Tia Rains and Chef Chris Koetke

The third episode in this 3-part series features Dr. Tia Rains and Chef Chris Koetke. They discuss the past and current research on MSG and the culinary applications of MSG and umami.

The first episode featured Sarah Lohman, a culinary historian and author of ‘Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine’. She shares how and why history has influenced our perceptions of MSG.

The second episode featured Mary Lee Chin, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in science. She shares insight into MSG’s connection to Asian heritage and health topics – including the question of headaches.

I’m excited about the role MSG may play in bringing out the savory flavor in plant-based foods and proteins.”
– Dr. Tia Rains

I am currently working on developing recipes that build on umami and reduce sodium at the same time.”
– Chef Chris Koetke


MSG & Umami – The Basics:

  1. MSG or monosodium glutamate is a seasoning that combines sodium with glutamate, an amino acid that is naturally present in certain foods.
  2. MSG is the purest form of Umami, which is 1 of the 5 tastes in addition to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, and brings out the savory flavor in foods.
  3. Studies have shown that MSG can reduce overall sodium content in a recipe by 30-40% by reducing the need for salt. In fact, the Institute of Medicine has referenced the potential of MSG as a tool to reduce sodium in foods.
  4. MSG is sold under the brand name Ac’cent in the United States, as well as AJI-NO-MOTO™, and can be purchased in the spice aisle of most major supermarkets, Asian grocery stores and online.

Glutamate in the Kitchen

Get the Factsheet: Glutamate in the Kitchen

Guest Bios:

Dr. Tia RainsTia Rains, PhD, is currently Senior Director of Public Relations at Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition. She has over 20 years of experience working on health and wellness initiatives within the food and beverage sector, most recently heading up the Egg Nutrition Center. She enjoys working at the intersection of nutrition research and communications in the food industry, always with the goal of advancing credible research in nutrition and developing truthful messaging on new research results in the context of the body of nutrition evidence.

Nutrition is a science. We should expect and encourage its evolution.”
– Dr. Tia Rains

Chef Chris KoetkeChristopher Koetke is a professional chef, veteran chef educator, expert in sustainability and umami, and per the American Culinary Federation, a Certified Culinary Educator and Certified Executive Chef. He has worked in professional kitchens for well over 3 decades and for 20 years worked in culinary education where he eventually oversaw 48 campuses in 12 countries. He is now the founder of his own consulting firm, Complete Culinary, which focuses on the 360 view of the food and beverage industries. He is also an expert on the culinary side of umami.

For me as a chef, it is always about taste and the eating experience. What is perhaps misunderstood here is that great food can taste great and be healthy and that balance in the diet is absolutely key.”
– Chef Chris Koetke


Dr. Tia Rains: Twitter

Chef Chris Koetke: Website | Instagram

About MSG & Umami: whyusemsg.com

MSG & Umami Resources: Patient Education | MSG Safety | Recipes | Scientific Citations


Chef Christopher Koetke Video on Umami

Featured Recipe:

Mexican Black Beans

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 17 mins
Total Time2 hrs 32 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Beans, Black Beans
Servings: 16


  • 2 lbs dried black beans
  • 1 1/2 cups white onion diced
  • 8 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp MSG
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup epazote chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro minced


  • Cover the beans with cold water and let soak overnight at room temperature.
  • The next day, drain the water.
  • Place beans in a pressure cooker with 2 cloves garlic, onions, salt and MSG. Cover with water that is about 2 inches above the level of the beans (8-10 cups). Cover the seal the pressure cooker and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes. Release the steam/pressure. The beans should be soft and creamy but not mushy.
  • In a sauté pan, sauté 6 remaining garlic pour in the oil until they start to brown. Add the beans with about ½-3/4 of their liquid. (You can add more for a more liquid result which is also excellent. The rest of the liquid is discarded.)
  • When it starts boiling add soy sauce, black pepper, and epazote. Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Add cilantro and additional salt if desired. Serve.



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Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium 2019

Sound Bites is collaborating with Today’s Dietitian! Stay tuned for updates on the podcast, blog, and newsletter!

Save the Date! Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium 2019 is in Scottsdale, Arizona May 19-22!

Music by Dave Birk

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  1. An n Marie on April 3, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    can we get Chris’s Mexican Bean recipe he mentioned?

    • Melissa Dobbins on April 3, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks Ann,
      I will ask him!

    • Melissa Dobbins on April 16, 2019 at 12:48 pm

      Hi Ann – Chef Chris shared the Mexican Bean recipe so I’ve updated the shownotes with it – see above!

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