Truk Tolstad (he/him)
Lived here for: 31 years
Originally from: Winona, Minnesota
Notable: Chef of 35 years, ice sculptor, knife sharpener.
Your business card says “Chef Truk.” When were you a chef?
I was a chef for 35 years, at Dirty Dan Harris for a while, and Top of the Towers back in the day and over at the Lakeway Best Western. I also did a lot of ice carving work, so if you've seen ice carved back in the ’90s or aughts it might have been mine.
I had the opportunity to learn [ice carving] while I was in school and was part of a club there, so I got a lot of practice. And then, advantageously, when I worked at the Lakeway [Best Western], that was something they wanted to do. They backed me and let me have somebody to work with, because it takes more than one person and you have to go get a 480-pound block of ice and transport it safely and set it up.
Is that how you got into knife sharpening?
I actually learned when I was young. My mom was a chef also, and so one of the neighbors taught me how to sharpen knives, and I sharpened knives throughout my career. Last year, I started doing it at the farmers market in the spring [of 2021] in Ferndale, and it was phenomenally successful. People started lining up an hour before I was even ready.
Knife people seem to have a compulsion to sharpen them for others. Is that you?
I’ve sharpened a lot of my friends’ knives over the years, showing up at their kitchen and, you know, their knives are in terrible shape. I’m actually kind of the old Boy Scout, so I can pull out a plate and use the bottom of it and sharpen somebody's knife real quick. I've always enjoyed that, and as I've studied it more, there's a lot to it. I upped my equipment and got the stones that are appropriate for doing Japanese knives, and starting in the spring, I got a new machine and started doing scissors and hair shears.
You have a sign that says you donate some proceeds to veterans. Do you have a connection to that cause in particular?
Well, I picked veterans because my friend Evan, who was my business partner when I started, passed on me this year. In the spring, he simply collapsed and died. I've known him for a very long time and he was a good friend, and yeah, it was pretty rough. I wanted to do something since he had helped me so much to get the business together, and do it in his name. We ended up going with the Vietnam Veterans of America here in Whatcom County because they're a very active group. They’re very philanthropic and they get out there and help with a lot of things. So far, I’ve donated over $1,100, and we have another $390 right now in the kitty. It’s nice to be able to [give] back.
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