Local Celebrity: Dustin Coury of Perfected Foods on Why Punk Rock Made Him a Vegetarian
December 31, 2009
My first LOCAL CELEBRITY, Dustin Coury, owns Perfected Foods (a fabulous company known for their vegan Soy Jerky). His family has been in the food biz for 30 years, so he’s been “pruned” for the job from an early age. He saw an opportunity to sell and market soy jerky after studying his step-dad’s TVP (texturized vegetable protein) meals. Dustin’s soy jerky is produced in the United States. It has no cholesterol. It’s all natural and vegan.
Until recently, the successful 26-year-old businessman lived across the street from me. Now, he lives in Echo Park. He’s lived in seven different states and three countries, but he calls East Los Angeles home.
CK: So where are can we get your Soy Jerky? Whole Foods? Trader Joe’s?
DC: No, just Whole Foods. You can get it Joe’s Market downtown. We’d love to be in Trader Joe’s. It’s unfortunate that Trader Joe’s has only beef jerky. And a lot of vegetarians would love some soy jerky. And TJ’s sells several million dollars worth of jerky a year. It’s incredible how much jerky they sell.
CK: Where do you sell the most soy jerky? California?
DC: Probably Los Angeles. I’m sure Portland will pull ahead in January.
CK: Is Whole Foods the only place you can get it? Or can you get it online?
DC: You can get it a bunch of different places including our website. We’re in 200 stores.
CK: How long does it last?
DC: A year and a half. That’s technically what our expiration is, but…it will last 5 years. You could open that bag and stick it on the table and it would sit there for the next 10 years and it would be edible.
CK: So basically, it’s just soy that’s dehydrated?
DC: It’s not dehydrated. It has that feeling..it has that chew of dehydration, but it’s not. It’s been heated up and extruded–that’s what we call it. We have a gigantic manufacturing plan in the mid-west.
CK: Is that where you’re from?
DC: My hometown would be Houston. I was born there.
CK: You lived in Venezuela. How long did you live there?
DC: For four and a half years.
CK: Have the places you lived had an effect on what you do?
DC: Every single place. I’ve lived in 7 different states, 3 countries, I lived in the islands-St. Croix. Park City.Oklahoma….All of them. So I got to see a lot of different places. I lived on a ranch in Oklahoma, so I got to see the whole rural kinda thing-dairy production and meat. Right after that was when I became vegetarian.
CK: So that’s why you’re a vegetarian?
DC: That and punk rock music. Punk rock music made me a vegetarian.
DC: Propagandhi. “How to Clean Everything” is one of the best albums. Minor Threat…Fugazzi.
CK: And their messages were what, don’t eat meat?
DC: Yeah. Essentially that’s what they said. There were a lot of bands when I was growing up that were spreading that message. I’m really glad that I was influenced. It’s just the way I was. And I think by moving to so many different places growing up, music was the core thing that I had.
CK: It’s great your jerky is Vegan.
DC: The carbon footprint of beef is insane. It’s ridiculous. I’m pretty disgusted by the animal abuse. It’s just senseless.If you’ve ever driven to San Fransisco (from LA), and the smell passing through….It’s horrible. And El Paso. It’s bad. Just think, we do that just for a meal. And we feed them all this grains and stuff. Our grains, our food core, everything is going to them. World hunger would be eliminated if it wasn’t for the meat consumption. I’m not saying people should stop eating meat completely. Reduce it–a couple times a week. Most other countries, you usually go to a butcher and tell them what you like. There’s not just slabs of meat lying around in cellophane. There’s not so much waste it seems like. It’s mainly the carbon footprint for me, to be honest. I think it’s a waste of resource…including land.
CK: I’m guessing most people don’t think about that. I bet a lot of people just think about the animal abuse…not environmental abuse.
DC: I get that. Abuse is horrible. It’s senseless violence. We were killing things long before now, but not at this rate. We’re one of the business contributors to PETA. We give money to PETA. There’s a couple hundred companies that are part of the PETA business group.
CK: So how did you end up Downtown? In the Arts District?
DC: I wanted to be away from Downtown-Downtown. When I was looking to move Downtown, I had friends tell me that this side of Downtown is more like the meat packing district of New York It’s not developed really. This [The Arts District] is the best place to be..hands down. It’s amazing.
CK: What are your favorite places to eat downtown?
DC: The Nickel. It’s such a good place. There’s an amazing breakfast place. They do all their own pastries and donuts.
CK: What’s your favorite breakfast item?
DC: I always get their tofu scramble and their brioche. What’s cool about their brioche, is that they make their own jams. They’ll do an apricot, they’ll do a strawberry, just different homemade jams all the time. The brioche is incredible.
CK: So you lived in the Arts District, are you an artist?
DC: I paint. That’s something I’ve been doing since I was three years old. I wanted an inspirational place. I had this idea that I just want to sit in a loft and paint. And, I love the history. That’s why I specifically moved into the Biscuit Company Lofts. It’s because it was an old Nabisco factory. Seeing all the trucks go by kept me very motivated [with Perfected Foods]. I didn’t start doing big truck loads until about 6 months ago. So, the whole time living downtown, I thought to myself, “God, I can’t wait until my product is in one of those big trucks.”
*photo credits:Dustin Coury http://www.celsias.com/ http://www.nickeldiner.com http://propagandhi.com/