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Missing links?

Updated: 2015-06-30 07:23
By Mike Peters (China Daily)

Beijing expats craving Western-style sausages often follow their noses to the guy grilling at local food fairs. Mike Peters sits down with a young entrepreneur who was into pearls before swine.

Andy Horowitz is an unlikely sausage-maker.

He grew up in a Jewish family in the United States, in a household "where we had a separate set of plates, forks and glasses" to be used with food that was kosher. His secret vice as a teen was pepperoni pizza, but his parents weren't so strictly religious that his secret had to be kept too dark.

The kosher awareness he grew up with, meanwhile, brought more to his current project than simple irony.

"In my family, we were very aware of everything that we put in our glass, on our plate," he says. "That appreciation for quality, healthy food is a major part of what I do when I make sausages."

Horowitz freely admits he's no culinary wizard. He came to China not as a chef but a jewelry artist, and he still makes occasional art pieces as gifts or for clients as auction items.

So how did he drift from pearls to pork?

"My craft-jewelry partnership fell apart," he says ruefully, acknowledging a familiar tale for foreign entrepreneurs. "I needed to find something else to do that would give me a future."

He found it at a barbecue hosted by his friend Steve Shaver, a professional photojournalist and former chef, who in 2012 roped him in to help with a summer cookout.

"We had a lot of stuff on the grill," he says, "but the sausages we had prepared - after grinding the meat and stuffing the casings ourselves - were a huge hit. Just the aroma they created made people happy and excited."

"People kept asking, 'Where can we buy them?'"

A light bulb clicked on, and soon Horowitz had a meat grinder, sausage stuffer and mixing bowl on the TV stand in his living room. From making sausages for his friends, a business has grown into a commercial kitchen and a storefront in the capital's expat haven of Sanlitun. He takes on so much catering and food-festival business that Horowitz sometimes feels glued to his delivery vehicle, an egg-shaped bubble car he's dubbed the "Hamborgini".

His top seller may be his Italian sausage. His attempt to add the fennel-rich flavor of that sausage to a classic Italian-American Sunday gravy - made with meatballs and red sauce - was an early challenge in his sausage-making career. "Local markets didn't have an Italian sausage that had the right flavor profile," he says. "They just had sausages labeled 'Italian'."

Sourcing his raw meat from the reputable German wholesaler Metro, his operation now produces about 10 flavors of sausage free of nitrates and nitrites - including spicy Italian, Lincolnshire sage and the cheese bratwurst - as well as two kinds of bacon and sausage rolls, which can all be found at a number of Beijing restaurants and brew pubs as well as his own shop. The menu at Andy's Craft Sausages also includes fresh bagels from Traitor Zhou's, dressed with cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onion and capers (45 yuan; $7.30) or with a fried egg, an Andy's breakfast sausage patty and cheese (39 yuan), or country ham (42 yuan).

Through July 15, he's also operating a pop-up container in front of the ultra-chic Parkview Green center, Fangcaodi.

"I think we've demonstrated that it's possible to succeed without a big, or even moderate investment," he told The Beijinger, the free monthly magazine which recently named him the city's 2015 Food Entrepreneur of the Year.

"All you really need is a heaping helping of determination. I started with a 3,000-yuan loan from a friend, which I paid back in sausages. That was the deal: 'I'll buy the equipment, you keep making those sausages for us'."

Contact the writer at michaelpeters@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 06/30/2015 page19)