to be acupuncture points to help in healing.
Early Britons tattooed themselves with
monsters and painted themselves blue to
induce fear, adding more color before going
into battle. Prince Constantine, an Albanian
Greek exhibited by P. T. Barnum, purportedly
received 388 Burmese tattoos when taken
captive and tortured by Chinese Tartars, part
of a tattoo tradition found among captives,
prisoners, slaves, prostitutes, sailors, soldiers
Though initially associated with outcast
groups demeaned by the European upper
crust, aristocrats soon followed suit and
caught the tattoo wave. Tsar Nicholas II,
Peter the Great and Catherine the Great
were all said to have tattoos. But did they?
“Rumors were part of tattoo culture, because
they were all placed in very private, discreet
areas,” says Irwin.
So have tattooed chefs adopted
tendencies shared by aristocrats? Or
are we commenting on our servitude like
other hard-hit laborers throughout time?
Or do these tattoos display the defiance
and warlike stances of a new tribe of
cultural warriors? How shall we read the
body canvases filling our kitchens?
THE TATTOOED MAN
Adam Schop, executive chef/partner
at Nuela, a Nuevo-Latino restaurant in
New York, is so tattoo-laden that only
his face, hands and feet are tattoo-free.
But with 400-hours-worth of imagery,
his tattooing days are over. “I’m pretty
thankful. Getting tattooed hurts more
now than when I was younger. It costs
too much, and I hate healing,” he says,
adding, “Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and
cheap tattoos aren’t good.”
DO THE RESEARCH
Those who choose to tattoo should
exercise caution. The U.S. Food and
Drug Administration has investigated
possible dangers in some inks,
including the presence of heavy
metals and ink migration.
Other risks include:
• Transmission of blood-borne diseases
• Allergic reactions
• MRI complications
• Removal issues
• Employer reaction
So, do the research. For starters, consult:
• “Tattoo Ink Stained by Safety
Concerns" ( www.npr.org)
Among American and Japanese references
he counts a sacred heart, three daggers
and a spider web, plus typical Japanese
dragons, flowers, fire and water. “I have no
interest in the philosophy of it at all and no
connection to Japanese gangster yakusa,”
he quips. Among his more ferocious images
Kevin Gillespie, executive chef/partner at
Woodfire Grill, Atlanta, has a wild boar’s
head tattoo that evokes memories of
growing up in the South.
Jesse Schenker, executive chef at
Recette, New York, has an affinity for
caulfat, shown on this tattoo wrapped
around a piece of meat—his arm—along
with his favorite knife.
Troy Guard, chef/owner of TAG Restaurant and
TAG Raw Bar, Denver, has a dragon (courage,
strength, protector of life, good fortune), lotus
flowers (awakening, spiritual reality of life) and
koi fish (courage, the ability to attain high goals)
in this tattoo.