More than almost anything else, food has the ability to transport us – conjure up memories, and places, far behind us. when customers stop in at Dirk Muller’s sausage shop, they’re not just looking for a piece of meat – but a piece of home.
“I’ve never been here before,” said customer Christina Runyon, “But I was born in Germany, in Stuttgart, and I came here looking for something specific, something I’ve never found in the United States.”
Many of the people who frequent Muller’s small shop off of Franklin Boulevard, have found that “something” in Muller’s European outpost. Surrounded by Mexican superstores, the small shop is filled by its single continuous deli counter, which is stuffed with bratwurst, leibkase, and the ever-present headcheese.
On the wall, a large certificate reads “Herr Dirk Muller, geboren am 3.12.1959 im Lima, Peru hat die Meisterprufung im Fleischer- handwerk bestanden.”, telling those in the know that the large affable man behind the counter is not only German-trained – but he’s also one of the best.
A “Meisterbrief” requires two years of apprenticeship, and three years worth of journeyman work just to take the rigorous and detailed skills test.
Mueller was born in Peru to German parents. He grew up in Southern California where he worked at Alpine Village, a Bavarian-themed and German-owned shopping complex in Torrance. Muller credits the owner, who is from Berlin, as the first to encourage him to go to Germany to train in his craft.
A “Meisterbrief” requires two years of apprenticeship, and three years worth of journeyman work just to take the rigorous and detailed skills test. It is a requirement to hold one in any craft in order to open a business.
“You’ve completed it all from the ground up. Your first year of apprenticeship, you’re back there scrubbing and cleaning the kitchen, really.”
It wasn’t always Muller’s intention to become a meister. “I went over there to go work, actually had the intention of going for about two years, just job around, learn new things. But as I was there it just turned out that I wound up going for the trade school program they have.” said Mueller.
In many European countries, including Germany, youth choose a path at the age of 13 or -14, either pursuing academia or entering a trade school, which puts them into real-world work experience. This is where Muller would spent two years building his business foundation.
“You’ve completed it all from the ground up. Your first year of apprenticeship, you’re back there scrubbing and cleaning the kitchen, really.” said Muller.
After five years in Germany, Muller returned to southern California, where his old boss showed him an ad in the California Staats-Zeitung, a German publication. A sausage plant in Sacramento was looking for a new owner.
A Swiss man named Ferdinand Morant was selling his shop, Morants Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen. When Muller bought the shop in 1989, he left Morant’s name on the door.
Some customers have been coming since before Muller’s time, and although Muller says he re-opened to a skeptical audience, many have nothing but praise for him now.
“I’ve never had a bad meal out of here,” said Jerry Greenberg, a longtime Sacramento native. “The only problem is that I eat too much.”
Muller sees his shop as part of Sacramento’s diverse food landscape pointing to Morant’s vast offering of sausages as proof of cross-cultural influences.
“I’ve never had a bad meal out of here. The only problem is that I eat too much.”
Never A Bad Meal: Morant's customers speak
“It’s not just all German, we have Mexican chorizo, we have Swedish potato sausage, British bangers, South African boerewores.” Muller lists, explaining that many of his customer’s are ex-pats, surprised to find this taste of home.
Where they find it can also be a shock to some, says Muller, as the neighborhood surrounding the shop has been known more for it’s crime than it’s bratwurst.
“Franklin Boulevard has gotten a bad rap because of some of the things that have happened along the strip in the past. But people don’t realize how much has been cleaned up, how much has been added,” said Muller. “We have a lot of customers that come and do their one stop shopping, they come here and get their sausage and go across the street and get their tamales.”