Last Christmas, Mark Novasack was making beef jerky to give as gifts, and shared some with his friend Marcos Espinoza. Inspired, Espinoza pitched the idea to try making jerky with some familiar flavors, including Philadelphia cheesesteak (their “Original” flavor) and a Southwestern spiced with green chilies, cumin and cayenne. After testing recipes, the pair enlisted the help of brand strategist Daniel Olsovsky (Rival Bros and Pub & Kitchen) to conceptualize and develop the product.
Side Project Jerky, which Espinoza identifies as “extremely mom and pop,” sources meat from Rice’s Quality Meats at the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market, and the marinating and drying happens at a commercial kitchen in Wyndmoor. Ideally, Espinoza and Novasack want to contract with a place like Wyebrook Farm to ensure all the meat is local. “The problem is that we can get the meat—we just can’t cut the meat,” says Espinoza. “We don’t have a meat slicer; we need that butcher middle man at this point.”
Their current setup allows them to process six pounds of meat at a time, which yields three pounds of jerky. Each package is vacuum-sealed and hand-wrapped in reclaimed architectural and engineering drawings. Espinoza and Novasack are continuing to fine-tune their recipes, and for now, the jerky can only be bought online. Look for a future partnership with Art in the Age, and potential collaborations with local chefs, who would develop limited-release flavors. —Liz Pacheco
Available in Original, Mongolian and Southwestern flavors, $8/2 oz. package; sideprojectjerky.com