Company: Double K Ranch
Education: Coursework, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT; Coursework, Marist College, New York; Coursework, Italy
Career History: Co-owner, Double K Ranch, Darby, MT (2019-Present); Cook (2016-2019)
Dillon James Kouf, Co-owner at Double K Ranch, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of food services.
With a sturdy foundation of familial ties and impeccable work ethic, Mr. Kouf followed in his father’s footsteps in 2019 when he became co-owner of his sprawling Montana property and greatly expanded its successful meat shop in the town of Darby—which produces the highest quality meat, from steaks and chops to burgers and sausage, that’s both ethically and sustainably raised. In his role, he supervises all operations and managers across Double K Ranch, from animal raising to processing, as well as establishing a new meat shop and deli on the premises.
Heavily involved in the family business since he was a child, Mr. Kouf’s father, Jim, and mother, Lynn, founded the Double K Ranch in 1985 out of respect for the land and a love for delicious steak—and as a way to teach their children about the importance of creating good quality food. Being surrounded by the business, he naturally gravitated toward cooking and food, becoming interested in the restaurant side of things. While in college, he studied for a semester in Italy, which drove his subsequent involvement as a cook in resorts and restaurants between 2016 and 2019. Eventually, the opportunity arose to help take over the family ranch, where he strived to implement his Italian cuisine and overall cooking and hospitality experience by promoting their meats in a restaurant setting. He introduced salamis, which proved to be successful, and then created charcuterie and cured meats, which were not being produced in Montana beforehand. As a result of his influence, and the success of his contributions, the ranch opened Meat Shop & Deli in Missoula, which has quickly gained popularity in the area.
On a mission to shift public perception of the farming industry, Mr. Kouf strives to illustrate that animals can be raised in an environmentally responsible manner, yielding healthier meat, and challenging the notion that it’s linked to large factory farms and commercial operations. Guided by his motto “Good health starts with healthy food,” he has taken pride in managing what stands among the few thriving ranches and shops in the nation that successfully raise, process, and transform on-site animals into value-added offerings—and infusing such meats with the traditional Italian lifestyle, a distinct endeavor within the region. As a testament to his work in transforming the family business, Double K Ranch was honored with the Montana Processors Association Award for its salami in both 2021 and 2022 and recently achieved national recognition from the American Association of Meat Processors.
Outside of his primary endeavors, Mr. Kouf contributes to agencies and charities within his community through product donations and participation in fundraising campaigns, including support for local schools, fire departments, and police departments. Looking toward the future, he has plans to franchise the business but wants to maintain the small and local feel of his current operation. He aims to guide and assist others in adopting this way of life rather than becoming a large, impersonal meat shop. Ultimately, Mr. Kouf’s goal is to promote a certain high-standards ranch lifestyle and help other ranches through franchising.