Longtime Lyndale neighborhood director launches Umami

Credit: Mark Hinds is leaving his post at the Lyndale Neighborhood Association to launch a new digital publishing company called Umami. Submitted image

After nine years as executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, Kingfield resident Mark Hinds is shifting his focus outside the neighborhood.

Hinds is founding Umami, designed to be an essential resource for people interested in food.

“It’s all about helping people expand their tastes,” he said.

Umami is the fifth flavor (after sweet, sour, bitter and salty), and Hinds described it as the savory mouth-feel often gleaned from Asian dishes.

The articles are designed to dig deep to explore food sourcing, health benefits and food policy. Current articles include a recipe for risotto with rosemary and thyme, a story on Northfield Olive Oils and Vinegars, an exploration of the history of the Old Fashioned, and the case for “Why Midwesterners should put down their casserole dishes and create a regional cuisine.”

Travel pieces are featured as well, and Hinds is interested in exploring Cuba, Spain and California.

Web traffic so far is international — Hinds said it’s fun to see simultaneous page views from people in South Africa, New Zealand and California. 

During his time at Lyndale, he’s discovered that food and music are the keys to high neighborhood turnout.

“Food is central to how people come together,” he said.

As Lyndale neighborhood’s executive director, Hinds has advocated to reopen Nicollet Avenue thru the Kmart site, pushed for an increase in the minimum wage, and overseen new community gardens, public art projects, popular ESL classes, graffiti removal, a neighborhood bike cops program, a renters advocacy group, and a Women’s Leadership Program for Somali and Latina women.

Hinds said he’s loved meeting people and telling their stories. Now he’ll continue doing that work through the site, he said.

“I always wanted one part of my life to be getting to know a place really well,” he said. “I found I was literally spending all of my time there, and ignoring everything else in the world. … What did I want the next 10 years to be?”

Hinds is working to build a network of contributing writers that operate as a collective. Instead of a freelancer’s traditional flat payment per story, writers are paid a percentage of revenue based on page views. He said creative professionals spend a great deal of time searching for the next assignment, and this model would allow them to focus on their work.

“It’s being in a position where I can help creative people be creative,” Hinds said.

Umami is available at thefifthflavor.com.