For some, the word ‘jerky’ may invoke images of a dry, tough snack, but for Selim Dangoor ‘23, founder of MUNCH Jerky, it is the palette to create a scrumptious artisanal food with luxuriously delicious flavors.
Dangoor, from New York City and studying public relations in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and finance in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, became fascinated with the creation of flavorful jerky this past summer when, like most of us, the days stretched out in uneventful boredom. As he passed time in the Hudson Valley he felt unfulfilled and uninspired. One day as he was hitting golf balls at his local golf course, he tried a piece of homemade jerky and instantly became obsessed.
Motivated to recreate the rich flavors he had experienced, Dangoor threw himself into a summer of making and remaking batches of jerky over and over, trying to figure out how to create incredible flavors with high quality cuts of tender flank steak. “It took me a long time to make my first batch of good jerky. It was about 10 or 15 tries before I made something that I was really happy with.” After trial and error, Dangoor found the perfect technique.
From then he was inspired by the possibilities of transforming jerky into a high-quality snack by creating succulent glazes. With flavors like Chili Lime Teriyaki and South Korean Barbeque, Dangoor found the perfect combinations of tangy and spicy notes to bring out the full-bodied flavors of the high quality meat he works with.
Dangoor’s newfound culinary adventures didn’t end when summer was over. When he returned to Syracuse he launched into starting a brand, MUNCH Jerky, and sharing his delectable snacks on the Syracuse campus, turning his simple quarantine hobby into a sustainable business idea.
For Dangoor, the practice of making jerky was more than a fun way to pass the time, but became a new passion. He had grown up centering his life around sports and as an avid hockey and lacrosse player, he found joy in pouring himself into these activities that gave him so much pleasure. But his intense dedication left him vulnerable to injury, leaving him with several concussions throughout his teenage years. After his fourth concussion, he was forced to take a break from sports to ensure successful brain recovery without risk of further injury.
Dangoor grappled with finding a pursuit he was as passionate about as playing sports. He didn’t feel as if he would ever find it. He didn’t feel as if he would ever find those same feelings of focus, complete immersion, and wholehearted passion until he discovered his love for making jerky.
“After I stopped playing sports, I struggled to find the outlet that would give me the same reward. I never felt like I found something I was truly as passionate about until I discovered making jerky, and then I decided to throw myself in.” Dangoor described the peace and focus he finds in the physical rhythms of making jerky. “The few hours a day that I’m cutting the meat and preparing the marinade — those are the few times I’m the most present.”
The joy Dangoor has found in the near-therapeutic moments of culinary creation is now compelling him to build MUNCH Jerky into a scalable, sustainable venture. He loves sharing his culinary talents and connecting with others through MUNCH Jerky, which has evolved from a way to pass time and learn skills during a pandemic.
He competed this fall semester in two business plan competitions sponsored by the LaunchPad, and earned applause from judges who loved his ideas, energy and passion. He also made important business connections and learned where to find help through resources like the South Side Innovation Center commercial kitchen and Nelson Farms which is SUNY Morrisville’s small-scale, FDA inspected, food processing incubator that provides entrepreneurial agri-business opportunities for specialty food processors, farmers, growers, and producers.
He will be working with the Syracuse LaunchPad & Techstars this spring to continue to bring his love of premium, high-protein artisanal jerky to life as a commercial venture, and to build a roadmap to launch into the marketplace and scale.
Story by Claire Howard ‘23, LaunchPad Global Media Fellow