Chefs and tattoos seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Case in point: A Google search of “chef’s tattoos” brings up 3.5 million results. Chefs simply love them — and they love talking about them even more.
“I got my first tattoo when I was 18 and just finished (Army) basic training,” said Noah Siebenaller, executive chef and co-owner of Beasts and Brews. “That is when I became ‘addicted’ to them.”
It’s such a hot topic that two cookbooks feature more than 200 chefs’ stories about the inspiration for their tats, along with recipes: “Eat Ink: Recipes, Stories, Tattoos” by Birk O’Halloran and Daniel Luke Holton, and “Knives and Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes)” by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton.
“Not only are chefs total badasses, they also look like total badasses,” Fitzgerald writes in the introduction of his book. “Almost every chef I ever worked with was covered in tattoos. … A lot of chefs get a tattoo because they see it as a commitment to the craft. A neck tattoo or a hand tattoo — or maybe even a tattoo atop your head — is a way of ensuring that you’ll never work at a desk job again.”
Not ones to miss a trend, local chefs and restaurant employees sport plenty of ink. Here are a few who were more than happy to spill the beans about why they got tattoos, with mostly no regrets. (According to historyoftattoos.net, 17% of those with tattoos regret them, and the reason is usually because another person’s name is on the tattoo.)
• Brother Luck, owner of Four by Brother Luck and a “Top Chef” competitor:
I feel like my tattoos are reminders and stories of the past. My first tattoo was a small cleaver with my last name in it. I got the tattoo when I turned 18 years old because I had just earned a full tuition scholarship to culinary school. I’ve had many more hours and work since then, and my tattoos are from all over the place. My favorite artist is Eric Hayes at North Star Tattoo on Academy (Boulevard). He’s done most of my work over the last five years. I don’t have any regrets over my tattoos but wish I would have considered how they would all tie in together later in life.
• Siebenaller, of Beasts and Brews:
All of my designs were done by artists and are original. Each one of them has a meaning or a story for me. My goal is to have my entire left arm done in a culinary theme. I space mine out over time in order to make sure I am getting exactly what I want and not just putting some random design on my body. I don’t have any regrets with any of the designs.
• Andres Velez, owner of Pig Latin food truck and Pig Latin Cocina:
I got mine because of my love for food. (My design) is a sauté with mushrooms, onions, sauces and other ingredients and flames because it was the first station I learned. It’s a part of the kitchen that requires attention to detail, multitasking and thick skin. Most of the items that come out of the kitchen pass through sauté.
• Kim Gentile Outlaw, co-owner of The Exchange, not a chef but a restaurant staffer for years:
My tattoos are inspired by the places I have lived and traveled. From my elbow to my ring finger is replication of a 3,000-piece puzzle I had completed. The artist worked in images of some of the flowers I grow in my garden. I got my first body art in my 20s. My favorite tattoo artist is Emily Boughton Medina at To The Grave Tattoo.
• Andy Schlesinger, chef and co-owner of The Exchange:
All my tattoos are in memory of my wife, though she was always against tattoos since we are Jewish. I felt it was an amazing way to remember and honor her. (She died in 2013.) My first tattoo is a passage from the Song of Songs from the Bible, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”
The other tattoo is from “Beauty and the Beast.” My wife — in fact, my whole family — are Disney junkies. My wife especially loved the Disney princesses. Every year for Halloween, she would hand-make our costumes. She would be a princess, and she dressed me as the “beast.” This tattoo keeps her close to me, because she was always and forever will be my princess. Like my business partner, Kim, my favorite artist also is Emily from To The Grave Tattoo. She did all the work freehand and is an amazingly talented artist. Looking forward to the next Disney tattoo in honor of my honey.