Sixteen years ago, Bam Romero was visiting a friend in California and watching television when an infomercial for a beef jerky machine—essentially, a food dehydrator—came on. Romero was a long-time jerky fan; as a kid, he says, he'd "ride [his] bike for miles, get a couple of pieces, and treasure them," and he was taken with the idea of making his own.
It turned out that the friend's parents had seen the same infomercial at some point and, in fact, already owned the jerky machine. "We made it the next day," Romero says, "and I lost my mind, it was so phenomenal."
He spent the next 12 years as a hobbyist jerkymaker, seasoning and dehydrating meat for friends and family and then, in a move that would turn him pro, for the staff of the bar where he worked, the now-closed KitchenBar. The owner was about to open a new place, Toby's Public House, and suggested he sell his jerky at the bar.
It was an immediate success. "I couldn't walk down the street without people saying, 'Bam, you got a bag?' like I was a drug dealer," Romero laughs. "A lot of love and care goes into it," he says, He uses all grass-fed beef, and while he was making up to five varieties at one point, he's scaled back to two for ease of production: Original and Spicy ($5).
You can find Bam's Jerky at both locations of Toby's, though Romero is hoping to make it more widely available this year.