Photo by Tommy Feisel.

Jerky Boys

Brothers take Columbus—and golf courses—by storm with their local snack.

Matt Salts (yes, that’s his name) and his band of brothers have launched a seasoned takeover of the dehydrated meat scene. Using simple local seasonings, and consulting capital city spice mongers, the team behind Charqui have graced Powell with a new local product, and the golf course-going masses have responded to the business venture with open arms—and mouths.

Where does the name “Charqui” come from?

Charqui is the root word for jerky. When jerky made its way up from south America to the American Westerners the word evolved from Charqui to jerky. We chose that name because we’re trying to get back to what jerky is meant to be (with modern flavors). Jerky was simply a source of protein, salt, and a heat source; you don’t need chemicals, harsh preservatives, etc. to make jerky.  Just good, clean, easy to identify ingredients combined with a high quality protein source.

You’ve kept the title of “head meat slicer.” Is this the most important job in the biz? How does cut affect the final product?

I kept that title because we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to have fun with what we do and it comes out in little ways like our titles and what we name some of our flavors. That being said, slicing our product is a very important part of the process as it determines cooking times, consistency, flavor distribution … We try to keep it within a narrow window but you are working with raw meat so there’s always challenges, especially when you’re hand slicing like we do.

Tell us about your spices and flavorings selections.

We actually use only local spice vendors who have helped us come up with some pretty great, custom blends. Ben at North Market Spices currently supplies four of our spice blends. The other local vendor is CaJohns in Westerville. They both are at the top of their respective games. We modeled most of our flavor profiles around traditional industry sales data. For example, Vintage is our award winning classic “original” flavor featuring a savory, peppery steakhouse style flavor.  This flavor profile is an industry leader. Our Sesame Sweet is our teriyaki, sesame fusion, and a twist on a base teriyaki. Teriyaki is the number two seller in the jerky industry. Maui Ghost is our “sweet and hot” flavor profile. Then we had some fun with our Morning Buzz blend with Crimson Cup which we modeled after a coffee dusted steak. Finally, our Sunday Hangover was our “off the wall” flavor which we modeled after a Bloody Mary.

You said Sunday Hangover was an accident. We’d love to know how that happened…

It was more of a catchy joke. We thought most people really have never seen a bloody mary jerky and there’s been a bit of an explosion with crazy Bloody Mary concoctions. We thought it would be a fun “gotcha” moment when we would explain our flavors at events. Maybe folks would laugh, try it, like it but buy something else. Turns out it’s such an interesting flavor profile people who don’t even like Bloody Mary’s love the product. Plus, it shows a bit of our fun side.

Do you have fond childhood memories of jerky?

Actually, just the opposite. We like to say we’re taking jerky out of the backwoods and into the mainstream. I would always eat jerky on road trips. I really remember feeling like I had to sneak into a gas station, buy a bunch of stuff, hide the jerky under the other items and hoped I didn’t get judged. We called it jerky shame. I took that feeling and hopefully created something you don’t have hide or feel bad about eating.

Tell us about your community involvement.

Two of our passions as a group, from a community involvement standpoint, are education and healthcare. There are a lot of reasons why we love education-based groups but primarily we believe it provides (and has provided us) with the foundation to our lives in nearly every aspect.  We were fortunate to grow enough this year where we were in a position to support the 2nd and 7 Foundation this year. They’re local and focus on childhood literacy. In addition to education, we focus on healthcare related issues. The primary reason for this is two fold. All of the wives of Charqui Jerky ownership are nurses or nurse practitioners. We see every day how all levels of healthcare touch literally everyone. We also are lucky to have a lot of healthcare-based clients like University Hospitals in Cleveland, Promedica in Toledo, Mt. Carmel here in Columbus, Piedmont in Atlanta and many others. We try and support some of their initiatives and were lucky to team up with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation as our beneficiary for sales at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.    

Why is the golf course the perfect place for jerky and why have we not seen that catch on long before this? It seems like the ideal snack for such a sport…

Well, a lot of guys golf and more and more women are picking up the sport and are consuming jerky. It’s extremely portable, easy to eat while golfing and provides a great source of protein and salt replenishment that is lost during a long round of golf.  I have no idea why it wasn’t focused on before, but we’re glad we’re the ones that figured it out.

Charqui Jerky Co. is located 130 E. Olentangy St. Powell. For more, visit charquijerky.com.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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