Expert Interview Series: Dan Polli of Sharp Gourmet, a Subscription-Based Kitchen Knife Sharpener Service

Dan is the Founder of Sharp Gourmet, the first and only knife sharpening subscription service which provides sharp cutlery to homes across the U.S. We recently spoke with Dan about the impact that a well-sharpened knife can have on...

Cooking and preparing foods

Dan is the Founder of Sharp Gourmet, the first and only knife sharpening subscription service which provides sharp cutlery to homes across the U.S. We recently spoke with Dan about the impact that a well-sharpened knife can have on cooking and preparing foods.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come up with the idea of Sharp Gourmet?

For over 100 years, my family has been sharpening cutlery throughout different areas of the Northeast. In late 2010, I decided to shift gears and become the fourth generation to work in the knife sharpening industry. Our company primarily focuses on providing cutlery rental services to businesses across the entire food industry. Whether it's a small corner store or a large supermarket chain, our customers are serviced on a weekly basis, thus ensuring easier and more efficient food prep.

Throughout our continued growth, I was constantly asked if we could sharpen personal knives from our customer's homes. It wasn't hard to see an opportunity emerging if I could somehow standardize a sharpening program and provide consistently sharp cutlery to homes across the U.S. Sharp Gourmet was born out of this realization that knife sharpening isn't something many folks know how to do or want to do. With subscription businesses blossoming across a variety of industries, I see Sharp Gourmet as being uniquely positioned to change how home cooks across the U.S. think about their kitchen knives.

How can you tell if a knife isn't as sharp as it can be?

Ask a dozen people this question and you're likely to get a dozen different answers. Within our sharpening shop, we like to use a sheet of paper as a basic test. If the knife isn't razor sharp and properly honed, you won't be able to easily grab the paper and slice through it.

Within a kitchen, I think the best judge is yourself. If you feel you're struggling with slicing a tomato or mincing herbs, you likely need professional maintenance of your cutlery.

Finish this sentence: "You can best see the difference between a dull knife and a sharpened knife when cutting ... "

A tomato. With a tough skin and soft interior, a dull knife will make cutting a tomato a miserable process. If your knife is struggling to get through a tomato and you're pushing too hard, it will become a mushy mess.

What characterizes a superior knife sharpening process?

Our process has been improved over the last century to create a sharp and lasting edge. All of our cutlery is put through a three-step process where a thin bevel is created and a thin razor sharp edge is honed onto the bottom of the blade. Above all else, a steady hand only improves the process. It takes thousands of hours to become an expert at sharpening a knife.

For people who want to sharpen their own knives, do you have any tips on how to do it right?

If you do decide to sharpen your own knives, I would recommend watching a few "how-to" videos. I learned from a young age while watching my father during my summers off from school. Watching someone and trying to imitate their movements can be very helpful.

However, sharpening a knife isn't easy. In fact, you're more likely to ruin the edge than create a razor-sharp piece of cutlery.

What impact does using a well-sharpened knife have on the finished dishes, entrees, or foods?

Anyone who's ever tried to slice paper-thin garlic, or garnish an entrée with an ingredient called to be prepared in a specific way, can relate to how important a well-sharpened knife can be. Many recipes specify an ingredient to be minced, sliced, diced, or chopped; and without a sharp knife, it can be an uphill battle.

When you're working in your own kitchen, what type of knife [or knives] tend to get the most use?

Specifically, I love Sharp Gourmet's trusty 8" chef knife. Whether it's slicing or dicing, it's my go-to for nearly every type of food prep in my home kitchen.

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