Emmarita Muse still remembers the first time her father packed her lunch in kindergarten.
Jim Muse sent his 5-year-old daughter to school with a triple-decker beef and ham sandwich, and containers chock full of baked beans, potato salad and cole slaw, all stuffed into a paper sack.
"The sandwich was literally bigger than me," Emmarita Muse joked.
The school lunch-turned-smorgasbord was evidence of Jim Muse's passion for food, and the pride he took in preparing it, friends and family said.
Muse, the Minnesota Vikings' first team chef, died April 4 in Brooklyn Park of complications from a heart attack he suffered last year. He was 61.
Muse fed the football team during the Dennis Green era, from 1993 to 2002, serving breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner at team headquarters.
"Jim played a big role for us. His meals fueled the team," said Green, now coach of the United Football League's Sacramento Mountain Lions. "He could cook a chicken any way you wanted it."
Muse was an entrepreneur who operated his catering company, Old Fashioned BBQ Service and Catering, in Missouri and Minnesota.
For Halloween one year, he tried to persuade 8-year-old Emmarita to go trick-or-treating as a slab of ribs: He thought it would be good for business.
Muse's older daughter, Marquita Miller, remembers her father putting bright orange "Old Fashioned BBQ" magnetic stickers on the driver- and passenger-side doors of her first car.
His barbecue sauce, Purple Pride Spicy BBQ Sauce, was tasty enough to secure the endorsement of former Vikings owner Red McCombs.
"Best darn BBQ sauce I ever tasted," the label quoted McCombs as saying.
Muse came to the Twin Cities in 1992 looking to expand his business and landed work with the Vikings a year later. He had a reputation for coming through in the clutch on Thanksgiving, filling Vikings players' last-minute orders for deep-fried and roasted turkeys.
When he wasn't cooking for Green and such Vikings greats as Cris Carter and Randy Moss, Muse and real estate agent Veryle Logan Hudson made a good team of their own. When Hudson sold houses, Muse would help the newcomers settle in, furnishing home-cooked meals, often free.
"Everything he made had a lot of love in it," said Hudson, his friend for almost 20 years.
Emmarita Muse never got a chance to eat that triple decker sandwich: Her teacher scarfed down the sack lunch, then asked what was on the next day's menu, she said.
"Everybody loved Jim Muse's cooking," Dennis Green said, "and they loved Jim Muse."
Muse's military funeral was April 12 in his hometown of Kansas City. The Marine Corps veteran is survived by his daughters, Marquita and Emmarita, two grandchildren, two brothers and a sister, all of Missouri.
Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491