At the 2017 Annual Meat Conference in Dallas held Feb. 19-21, the Man Cave Craft Eats booth was on fire. Not literally, of course, but the energized team from this Minneapolis-based craft sausages and patties company, which started out as a farmers’ market concept about a decade ago and has grown into a premium retail brand, was radiating excitement. With a new look and never-done-before offerings, Man Cave Craft Eats is taking on traditional burgers and hot dogs and introducing Americans to new grilling cuisine.
The company is all about “obsessively crafted” meat and poultry products and was founded on the premise that people will pay more for better products, much like they do for craft beer and artisan ice cream. Meat + Poultry spoke with Jason Moore, director of culinary innovation at Man Cave Craft Eats, who joined the company about six months ago, to gain insight to his fascination with making innovative sausages and patties.
R+D Insider: What brought you to Man Cave Craft Eats?
Jason Moore: I became a certified executive chef in 1998 and have been actively involved in the culinary arena my entire career. After apprenticeship, I was the corporate executive chef for The Palm Steakhouse in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, where I was responsible for menu expansion of the 86-year-old iconic steakhouse concept. I guess that’s when my fascination with making meat exciting began.
Soon after, I assumed the role of culinary director for the Southeast region of Wolfgang Puck International. Here I led the creative development for the company’s Wolfgang Express fast-casual concept. This is where I honed my understanding of Pacific Rim flavors and brought California fusion cuisine to the mainstream, cost-conscious consumer.
I also realized that consumers want bolder, more exciting flavors when they eat at home. These should be similar flavors to what they enjoy when eating out, either through food trucks or chef-inspired fast-food and casual restaurants. These are flavors they just cannot create in their own kitchen.
I’ve worked on innovation with other companies, and even had the chance to travel to China to study the emerging flavors that are influencing mainstream menus. My goal is to cultivate the ever-changing palate of mainstream Americans by translating the amazing flavors today’s consumer readily experiences while dining out into retail products. I draw inspiration from my grandfather, a Master Chef who lived by the maxim that “food is the essence of the happiest of smiles.”
R+D: Man Cave Craft Eats is rolling out a number of new sausages. Please tell us about them and what sets them apart in the marketplace.
Moore: We are a craft company and focus on using only quality cuts of meat and premium ingredients. Take for example some of our new raw sausages, most of which are distributed frozen but merchandised in refrigerated meat cases. We’re rewriting history with the classic brat and calling it The New Standard Brat. We start with fresh pork shoulder with cushion and blend in individually quick frozen caramelized onions and smoked peppercorn. The whole thing gets slathered in a bath of craft root beer from a Chicago company that makes nothing but premium root beer. The raw line includes Bacon, Beer & Cheddar sausages, which include large pieces of savory cooked bacon, chunks of cheddar and craft beer. In the cooked sausage line we have a Mac & Cheddar Cheese Stuffed link that combines coarse ground beef with cooked macaroni and cheese chunks. The pieces are all identifiable in the heat-and-eat product.
R+D: You definitely have a way with ingredients. Where did you learn to mix and match the unexpected?
Moore: Before joining Man Cave Craft Eats in August 2016 I was the corporate chef of research and development at Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee. I was very involved in the development of the ultimate foodie frozen pizza line called Urban Pie. These pizzas show consumers how frozen pizza can be so much more than crust, sauce and mozzarella. One of the varieties includes chicken sausage, roasted yellow peppers, and gouda, mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Another variety uses truffle alfredo as the sauce. This gets topped with caramelized onions, shiitake and crimini mushrooms, and fresh basil, with an unexpected finish of capers sprinkled on top.
Sausages and patties can be so much more than ground meat and a few spices. Take for example Italian sausage, which traditionally comes in hot or sweet varieties. I’ve developed a cooked sausage coil made with pork cushion and shoulder. It’s triple ground and includes huge pieces of real prosciutto and porketta-inspired seasoning.
R+D: What about making sausage a more exciting breakfast food?
Moore: We can do that! We are doing that. For hearty breakfast eaters who don’t like traditional pork sausage, we are rolling out Chicken & Waffles Breakfast Links. We blend what I like to call “herb-a-licious” chicken with golden griddle waffle bits and maple-infused hot sauce. We partnered with a waffle cone company to source cone pieces that are identifiable in every link. For dashboard diners there’s the All-In-One Breakfast Link, which is a casing filled with the perfect amount of scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and shredded hash browns.
R+D: You’ve been called a Renegade Chef. What does that mean?
Moore: Renegade chef is a term that’s been out about as long as Man Cave Craft Eats. It’s a term that refers to culinary professionals who push the limits in regards to mixing and combining unlike ingredients into familiar foods, as well as working with indulgent, premium ingredients. It’s all in the name of flavor. Renegade chefs like myself are creating a new American cuisine. This is exemplified in none other than our Renegade Chef’s Blend patties. It’s the perfect mix of premium meats to change your opinion of burgers forever. We combine sirloin, brisket and short rib to create this one-of-a-kind experience.
R+D: In addition to all these new products, Man Cave Craft Eats has gone through a package redesign and brand makeover. Tell us about this.
Moore: The Man Cave brand to date could be perceived as overly masculine. This was our No. 1 concern when revamping the image. Our mission was to create a brand that’s exciting, innovative and approachable for everyone. You will notice a bold new color palette on the packaging. We’re using color as a means of attracting consumers to engage with the product. Once in hand, we’ve crafted a new experience not seen in the grocery meat category. Breaking with tradition, our package fully encloses the product. We display our product using a custom die cut that lies under the cover. The new approach is a conscious effort to disrupt a monotonous category.
R+D: What can we expect in the future?
Moore: Simply, a lot more of everything delicious.