Artistry and Adventure: An Exploration of the Ties Between Cooks and Tattoo

A celebration of our video series Chef Ink, which digs into five chefs' unique stories behind their art.

July 11, 2019 ‚óŹ 2 min read

Chefs, it can be argued, are some of our culture’s modern-day adventurers and storytellers. Their quest for experience, inspiration, and new stories to tell round the “campfire” of the kitchen and on the plate compels them to share experiences and prized ingredients with each other and their customers, to travel out into the grand world beyond their kitchens.

It’s no surprise then that so many chefs resonate with another ritual that is not unlike cooking in its sense of artistry and adventure: tattoo. You can often times see hints of their autobiographical road maps, spilling out in ink from their rolled up chef’s coat sleeves onto their forearms, creeping up their necks from their collars. As with a chef’s application of heat and spice in the kitchen, if a tattooist applies too much pressure on a client’s skin the whole thing is ruined. Not enough pressure, and it won’t make a lasting impression. Chefs and tattooists remind us of this human truth: impactful art is rarely made without sacrifice and many, many lessons along the way.

Sometimes it helps to write these lessons down on your skin as a reminder: “Restraint.” Sometimes you want a picture of your grandma to remind you why you got into the game to begin with. Sometimes you want to get matching hot and sour soup tattoos with a co-worker you share a particular soup-based bond with. Sometimes it’s that butcher diagram gotten prior to realizing your market really needs more sweets, not more meats.

Tattooists and chefs also know a little something about pain and heat: if you apply just enough with that hard-won restraint and discipline of yours, you can create an endorphin rush that has people associating that slight burn with pleasure and coming back for more. The right kind of pain, delicious pain we’ll call it, can stimulate the body’s healing centers, it can release endorphins that lift us to joyous, even transcendent places. It can create the right kind of memories, the one’s you want to tell and keep about that perfect bowl of ramen you had the night before your best friend shipped off and you got matching tattoos.

The creators of Tattoo Hot Sauce get this too: they know that some of the earliest and most important distinctions of culture are in the way people spice their food and the way they mark the passage of time: from Japanese Togarashi, to Mayan-inspired Avocado Serrano, its flavors are inspired by cultures that have strong culinary and tattoo traditions. That’s why we felt they are the perfect partners for Chef Ink, our food, ink, and memories video series. Check out episodes one and two now, and stay tuned throughout July for all five episodes.

This story is sponsored by Tattoo Hot Sauce.