As a member of a fraternity during his years as an engineering student at Lehigh University, Dan Levy had 60 willing and hungry taste-testers – perfect for someone perfecting a recipe for biltong. A South African snack similar to (but we’ve learned, also very different from!) beef jerky, biltong was Dan’s main source of sustenance every summer when he traveled from England to South Africa to visit family.
Not long after moving to America, Dan had a problem: he was eating his stash of imported biltong faster than it was arriving by mail. And he found jerky to be an unsatisfying replacement. To be fair, it’s a totally different product. Biltong, which is air-dried for several days instead of oven-dehydrated for several hours like jerky, is tender, more like prosciutto. Biltong is also rubbed with nothing but vinegar and spices, so its taste is fresh, unlike jerky, which can sometimes taste synthetic because of the sugar and liquid smoke. So during his second year of school, Dan started tinkering with his own recipe and testing it out on the frat boys.
Pantelis Takos, a dorm mate and fellow engineering student with a long Greek lineage and food service in his blood, was an eager taster from the start. The process took a while to hone (Dan had his South African grandparents on speed dial), but soon his lean, protein-packed strips of beef flavored with nothing but coriander, vinegar, salt, pepper and other spices matched his taste buds’ memory. With Pantelis’s help, Dan launched Lehigh Biltong in late 2015.
The pair juggled biltong production with their final year of coursework (talk about burning the midnight oil!) and commemorated the transition from students to real world business owners by road tripping from New York to Los Angeles. Fueled of course, by bags of Lehigh Biltong. Now, they make their six-ingredient, power snack in L.A. and their future is so bright, they gotta wear shades.