Setting out to improve upon the chemical-laden, petrified strips of mystery meat that stock the shelves of any standard gas station, Matt Lauster invested in a commercial dehydrator—yeah, not the sort of gift you’d typically treat yourself with. But it was dehydrator’s promise of delicious jerky that Lauster lusted after, and he was willing to put in the work to manifest the best version of his vision.
Lauster zeroed in on a local meat supplier near his base in Los Angeles, California, from whom he bought eight pounds of roast. Then, Lauster hand-cut the fat and gristle from the meat and sliced it into thin slivers before marinating them in his zesty custom sauces. That’s where things got real: Lauster’s true special talent might just lie in his instinct for mixing up unorthodox, addictive savory flavors that take his jerky to the next level of tasty and draw in customers hook, line and sinker. We’re talking Sriracha-lime, balsamic vinegar, garlic habanero and Korean barbecue—the sorts of flavors that just so happen to be having a zeitgeist moment and complement dried meats perfectly.
Lauster’s bold taste in flavors is indicative of his daring nature: he said goodbye to a career in corporate management to pursue a full-time gig making dried meats. But judging by the fact that his Sriracha-lime jerky sold out at its official debut at LA's Abbot-Kinney Festival, he’s doing a lot of things right. Part of the appeal, especially in his health-crazed hometown, comes from the fact that when the meat is dried, no pesky nitrites, MSG, or other artificial ingredients get involved. While this gives the jerky a shorter shelf life than its mass-market counterparts, most would wager that the benefit of not being stale and zombified outweighs the drawback of an abbreviated shelf-life. In the realm of the health-conscious and gourmet, jerky’s not necessarily on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but Lauster’s artisan, all-natural, and not to mention insanely flavorful product might just change that.