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Luke Davis (Credit: Chris Casella)

Food Ink

The ink behind Columbus’ culinary artists

By Kimberly Leddy

Published January 21, 2013
Amy Schoonover (Credit: Chris Casella)

Getting a tattoo is a rite of passage for many, including those in the gastronomic world. In kitchens across the country, getting inked has become a way to swear allegiance to favorite ingredients and herald commitment to the culinary community. “There’s a masochistic quality to being a chef,” laughed Bill Glover, chef/owner of Sage American Bistro. “We’re all kinda nuts.”

Luke Davis

Harvest Pizzeria, sous chef

Tattoo by Naryan Claudy, Skained Skin

Luke Davis committed his pie passion to ink last summer. Passion may not be a strong enough word. “I am obsessed with pizza,” admitted the Upper Arlington native, with just a smidge of crazy eyes. This is a kid who is so enamored with the seemingly simple equation of dough + sauce + cheese that he traveled to New York City specifically to worship at the oven of Co., the slight pizza-centric restaurant opened by baker extraordinaire Jim Lahey. “It’s not what we think of as pizza,” he explained. “It’s based on seasonal, local fresh ingredients.” Harvest was the perfect place for the neophyte chef to land, just as pizza tools were the perfect tattoo choice. “I don’t do color tattoos,” he said. “So a slice would be kinda weird, so I thought of the tools of the trade and I wanted to be original.” Despite doing on-line searches and brainstorming, Davis was having a hard time figuring out how to memorialize his pizza amour. He was told by many that Naryan Claudy at Stained Skin was the best black-and-white artist in the city and, after a meeting, the two came up with the pizza wheel and peel idea. “Harvest is my home, I am here more than anywhere else,” he said. “This is me wearing my passion on my sleeves.”

Gideon Miller

Wine warrior, Vintage Wine

Tattoo by Billy Hill, Envy Studio

Gideon Miller has lots of tattoos, two of which honor his childhood and speak to his love of food.

“I was raised on a pig farm outside of Sandusky. The ‘farm-raised’ is my mother’s favorite,” he explained, stretching out his arm and pointing to the crook of his arm, where an “X” of bacon marks the spot. “If I have a heart attack, this is where they’ll put the needle. My favorite things: bacon – the best thing about a buffet is all the bacon you can eat – and butter. I’m working on a butter tattoo.”

Bill Glover

Chef/owner, Sage American Bistro, Gallerie Bistro

Tattoo by Scott Santee, www.scottsantee.com

When Bill Glover talks about his tattoo, it’s clear that the ink journey was a spiritual one.

“You’re allowing your body to talk to you, it’s deeply personal,” he explained. “You learn something about yourself.”

Finding an artistic soul mate in Scott Santee, their design collaboration includes mirepoix (the French name for the foundational trio of carrot, onion and celery), a chef’s knife, his favorite fishes (tuna and red snapper), sage, and a tomato in honor of his Italian mother. All are tucked amongst rolling waves and lively leaves.

“I got to a place in my life where I could say, ‘I am a chef,’” he said. “That’s what I’m going to be for the rest of my life, that’s who I am. What better way to immortalize that? It’s a testament to my passion about my work.”

Amy Schoonover

Occupation: Whole Foods Market, cook

Tattoo artist: Chris Churchill, Evolved

“I have a rule about tattoos,” counseled Amy Schoonover. “If I have a finalized idea of what I want, I wait a year and if I still want it at the end of the year, I get it.” Currently in possession of two food-related tats, Schoonover plans on getting more. “The next one is going to be a stick of butter,” she mused. The stick will join the pig, with its butcher markings, and the eggs-and-toast illustration. “I just love pork,” she giggled. “My favorite part is the belly – that’s where bacon comes from!” The eggs-and-toast piece has a bit more of a story behind it. “In my early 20s, I worked at Wild Oats with my best friend,” she recalled. “She was an amazing artist and she was drawing all the time. At work, we were always around food, so that’s what she drew.” The two created an on-going story about eggs’ love affair with toast. “Then butter would jump in and say, ‘I love toast,’” she laughed. “And then it would be, like, what is egg going to do to prove its love for toast?” The proliferation of tattoos in kitchens around the world makes total sense to Schoonover. “Well, imagine the people food service attracts; generally speaking, they are a little more hedonistic. And chefs are getting burned and cut all the time in the kitchen – they’re used to pain.”

Matthew LaGrow

Chef, Northstar Café

Tattoo by A.J. McMillen, High Street Tattoo

The two whisks that adorn Matthew LaGrow’s triceps immortalize his two loves – baking and his girlfriend. The old-timey whisks were inspired by a kitchen towel given to LaGrow by Emily, herself an assistant at Pistacia Vera.

“I’d been thinking about a tattoo for a very long time, and that towel was a spark of inspiration,” he said. “I dropped into the tattoo place and there are all these guys sitting around with tattoos on their necks and I’m thinking, ‘They’re going to think I’m soft.’ But I showed them the sketch and there was an immediate positive response. Both my worlds are represented – my love for baking and my relationship with Emily . . . I’ll have love for both forever.”


mecina @ 01/27/2013 06:50 pm

It would have been so cool to have my culinary tattoo pictured here. I am a line cook and it's pretty bad ass. If food city ever wants to run this again, I am available. I love when people tattoo themselves with their passion!