Most American meat-eaters take beef jerky for granted. From Slim Jim in gas stations to kosher beef jerky from Baltimore-based Aufschnitt Meats, it’s an easily obtainable staple. But a Baltimore transplant in Israel discovered that it wasn’t so common in his neck of the woods.
Chaim Davids, who graduated from culinary school at the former Baltimore International College in 2005, recently started Field Rations, a boutique company that offers specialty cured meat products.
Davids, 34, is based in Jerusalem, but his kosher l’mehadrin jerky (and other products) is shipped all over the country. After years working in restaurants, the hectic pace of food service was taking a toll on the chef/entrepreneur.
“I was burning out of the restaurant scene,” Davids said. “I have a family and kids. The long days in restaurants — it’s also not the most lucrative work.”
Before making aliyah to Israel in 2010, Davids had worked everywhere from noted Baltimore butcher shop Wasserman & Lemberger to restaurants in southern and northern California.
He credits the Baltimore butchers with teaching him the basics of curing meats, a skill he sharpened on his own.
“In all my restaurants, I always made homemade lamb bacon or beef jerky,” he said. “I was always fascinated with the world of naturally preserving or curing meat the old-fashioned way.”
While people in Israel certainly know what jerky is, Davids said, for him it’s all about branding the food as an outdoor snack.
“In America, there’s trucker culture and hiking culture,” Davids explained. “Israel has this sort of army fraternity culture. After the army and before the army, there’s the Israel National Trail. All the young people are out hiking the trail. I wanted to brand the jerky, Field Rations, to have a satirical play on what soldiers are eating in the field.”
Jerky isn’t Davids’ only business interest. Just in time for Passover, he’s busy distributing his new product, Gingrit, an alcoholic, sweet ginger ale that’s kosher for the holiday.
“It’s usually just tequila and wine, and now you can drink something sweet, bubbly and cold on Pesach,” Davids said. “It’s a real novelty. We’re the first sweet, alcoholic ginger ale that’s kosher for Pesach in the country.”
Aside from building his new business, Davids is trying to give back where he can. This month, he started an Indiegogo campaign called Treats for Heroes to donate packs of beef jerky to lone soldiers. The idea came to him when he was producing his beef jerky in a local restaurant and he got a lot of American lone soldiers knocking on the door for the salty snack.
“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if folks would buy beef jerky for these soldiers, so that they could have something to snack on while they’re out in the field?’” Davids recalled. “I’m going to ask people to sponsor a soldier with beef jerky. I’m going to go to the lone solider center and drop off cases of this stuff.”
To contribute to Davids’ Indiegogo fund, visit bit.ly/FieldRations.