Sharp Supplies

Blade Runner

Mike Kosec of Rolling Sharpening Stone keeps chefs on the cutting edge.

By Amanda Rae May 1, 2014 Published in the Summer 2014 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Image: Karl Wolfgang

Aspen Sojourner: You’re based in Rifle, but you service restaurants across western Colorado in your mobile knife-sharpening and kitchen-supply truck. How do you operate?
Mike Kosec: Tuesday I’m in Vail, Wednesday in Grand Junction, Thursday in Aspen. Today I have about fourteen stops: two in Snowmass, the Maroon Creek Club, Aspen Valley Hospital, Ellina, L’Hostaria, Steak House No. 316, the Little Nell. All together, thirty to forty customers in Aspen, some once a week, once a month, once every two weeks. The biggest is Caribou Club—one of my original customers.

AS: What do you do there?
MK: I retrieve knives from the kitchen and do the whole gamut of sharpening on the truck. I can make a new edge, change the bevel, take the burr off, or clean the edge. On some stops, I’ll just resupply garbage bags, latex gloves, food film-wrap; I know what they’re gonna go through. I order four or five pallets of garbage bags, 300 to 400 cases at a time. Eighty percent of people who come on the truck end up buying something. Often they say, “I had no idea you had all this stuff!”

AS: You do have a lot of stuff in here—on the walls and even the ceiling: mixer blades, flavor injectors, measuring spoons, the biggest potato masher in existence.
MK: It’s like a Snap-on Tool Truck for chefs. All custom oak. I have all kinds of kitchenwares: grinder parts, peelers, storage containers, baskets, everything you can imagine. I have a catalog with walk-in coolers and stoves; I once sold $35,000 of equipment for the opening of a kids’ ranch in Dotsero. Chefs’ pants, coats, those are big sellers. Everybody wants or needs new pants.

AS: That’s the practical side of what you do. What about the personal?
MK: The fun part is seeing the chefs. I’ve been doing this twelve years, and it’s amazing that some of ’em are still in the same place. I try to get chefs to check out the truck. We talk about their bosses, sports, whatever. I’m a psychologist, for sure. They’re entombed in the kitchen for twelve hours a day. These chefs are myopically food, food, food. There are no windows in the kitchen.

AS: As executive sous chef of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver for six years and a Sheraton Denver Tech Center banquet chef before that, surely you can relate. Any parallels to your current gig?
MK: Definitely the craftsmanship, the perfection side of it. “Don’t screw up the chef’s knives” and “Don’t screw up the chef’s food” is the same philosophy.

AS: How has the industry changed in the past decade?
MK: Everybody’s going from German to Japanese knives. In terms of food: the farm-to-table thing, real food not covered up, as opposed to chefs trying to make a name for themselves by being real fancy. In Aspen—and Vail, for that matter—it’s just good, unpretentious food.

AS: Any shake-ups?
MK: When Pacifica closed. They were a huge customer, on a weekly basis. I do Kenichi and Matsuhisa, but sushi chefs don’t necessarily give up their knives. It’s part of the tradition of being a sushi chef to sharpen your own knives. Your fish, your knife.

AS: I see you’re putting on safety gloves.
MK: These are stainless-steel chain mail. I do have a chain-mail apron, but—don’t tell my wife—I haven’t worn it in years. It is about fifteen pounds.

AS: What happens if you drop a knife on the grinding wheel?
MK: [Pointing] I run that way!

AS: Have you suffered any major accidents?
MK: See this hole right here? I go through two, maybe three, pairs of these gloves a year. I had a carving knife hit that one spot. Five stitches. That was in 2002, and it’s not even the worst. Two incidents in ten years is not bad. Being self-employed, I don’t have workers’ comp.

AS: Sheesh, these knives look sharp.
MK: Especially the Japanese knives. I finish them with a whetstone. 6,000 grit, and it’ll be pretty darn close to razor sharp. I also have a rental program, if chefs damage or lose a knife.

AS: What don’t you do?
MK: As I say, I can sharpen everything—except your wit.

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