Roy Elam’s $13 Pasta Cutter Roulette

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Roy Elam is the chef-owner of Donna Jean, a vegan restaurant he opened six years ago in San Diego and recently expanded to Los Angeles. Named after his late mother – who inspired Elam to start his own establishment, as well as explore the health and wellness benefits of a plant-based diet – the restaurant focuses on pizza and pasta, among other seasonal comfort foods.

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SPY caught up with Elam to ask him about the one tool he uses every day that doesn’t break the bank: Happy Sales’ Pastry and Pasta Cutter Wheel.

What’s the appeal of this pasta cutter?

I’ve tried the more expensive pasta cutters, like the brass ones that cost $60. They just get stuck on the pasta dough. This cheap little thing works better than the more expensive one, in my experience. You can do a lot for very little money.

Brass pasta cutters look cool. Why don’t they work too?

For some reason when you cross the very first part of the pasta dough, it gets stuck in the wheel and comes up inside as you roll. I have to do this motion with both hands to hold one side of the dough while I cut it. But with the cheap pasta cutter, it’s like, zoop! You don’t have to worry about anything.

So have you tried both?

I started with the cheap because that’s what I could afford. Then I started looking at all these fancy chefs using these brass tools, and I was like, “Oh, I need one!” Then I got it and thought, “This stuff just doesn’t work that well.” It takes a bit more effort. And then you also have to oil it so that it doesn’t squeak when you use it. It seems like more trouble than it’s worth. I’ll stick with the cheap guy. I’ve had the same one for five years and it still works fine.

You have to cut a lot of pasta.

Oh yeah. At the moment we are making agnolotti. In our two restaurants, we sell hundreds of agnolotti dishes a week. I have a few of these cheap pasta cutters, and they do the job.

Other than looking cool, what is the supposed benefit of brass pasta cutters?

One difference is the ridges. I know on the brass bur the ridges are a little bigger and more pronounced so they look a little prettier. But you can also get cheap burs that have bigger edges. Most of the time it seems more complicated to use the more expensive knives, so I regret buying one. I could have saved my money.

It sounds like a classic difference between a home cook who doesn’t mind playing with pasta and a fancy tool, versus a restaurant where you need to work quickly.

We need speed, efficiency, and a tool that will do what it’s supposed to do without too much hassle.

So what happened to the brass cutter you bought?

I still keep the brass one in my knife bag, but I never take it out again. I keep the cheapest ones in my restaurants because they are the ones that work.

pastry cutter and pasta with light oak handle on white background

pastry cutter and pasta with light oak handle on white background

Happy Sales Pastry and Pasta Cutter Wheel

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