In the restaurant industry tattoos appear to be everywhere—from the arms to the neck. Getting them almost seems like a rite of passage. In a field that often requires a chef’s jacket or some type of uniform, the body art is a way for chefs and others to showcase their creativity beyond the kitchen.
coffee auteur, Johnny’s
Number of tattoos: 16
First tattoo: 2011, shortly after she married her husband, Nick. “Once the seal was off, that was it,” she says.
Why are tattoos so popular in the restaurant industry? “Because there are a lot of artists in the industry and we also have come to terms with the fact that we are not going to be in a regular corporate industry,” she says.
corporate executive chef, Michael’s Cafe
Number of tattoos: 3 (including a half sleeve) with more in the works
First tattoo: Vecchiolla got his first tattoo in 2015. The tattoo is a quote from the movie “Lawless” based on the true story about brothers who fought to preserve their family’s moonshining business during the Great Depression and Prohibition.
“The quote stuck out to me because I feel like the world and life itself is violent in nature,” he says. “It is a fight both mentally and physically. It is a constant battle that faces us with difficulties and obstacles but I am determined to do anything I set my mind on doing.”
Why are tattoos so popular in the restaurant industry? “Because we’re artists,” he explains. “We express ourselves through our food and our ink.”
Tonya and David Thomas
general manager, Ida B’s Table
Number of tattoos: 8
First tattoo: Thomas got her first tattoo—a Sanskrit symbol for breathe on her left hand—during a trip to Ireland last summer when her husband was participating in the Guinness Meatopia event.
“It is a beautiful reminder of what comes naturally,” she says. “It is the first thing we do when we come in this world, and the last thing we do when we leave it.”
Why are tattoos so popular in the restaurant industry? “Just like the food we create that is an expression of who we are, tattoos are the same. It is another form of creativity,” she says.
chef, partner, Ida B’s Table
Number of tattoos: 6
First tattoo: Thomas got his first tattoo in the summer of 2019 to commemorate his wedding anniversary to his wife, Tonya. The tattoo is an infinity circle that contains his wedding date and his wife’s initials. Since then he’s gotten five more, including a tattoo of six Southern ingredients, including collard greens, black-eyed peas, okra, and scotch bonnet peppers, on his right calf.
“I kind of got addicted to it,” he says with a laugh.
Why are tattoos so popular in the restaurant industry? “I think it’s a matter of self-expression. We’re all pretty creative people. We want to express what we are through what we do. A tattoo is an easy way of doing that. …I’m sure everyone has their own way and why. For me, it’s about, this is who I am. And these are the things that make up who I am,” he says.
chef/owner, Duck Duck Goose
Number of tattoos: 25
First tattoo: Alfred got his first tattoo 16 years ago when he was 18. It was a cross on his right shoulder.
“I tried to get something that didn’t upset my mother too much,” he recalls.
Why are tattoos so popular in the restaurant industry? “They are popular among the people who choose to work in the restaurant industry. I decided early on that I wouldn’t be the type of person who wore a suit to work every day. I wore what I wanted to wear and looked the way I wanted to look. It’s a way we can express ourselves. We wear the same thing every day. It offers us an opportunity to show a little bit of individuality.”