Bookshelf: Eat Ink

Chefs are the new rock stars. Perhaps that used to be a disputable statement, but no longer. To be sure, the field has its poseurs—if the Rolling Stones had to compete with the Monkees, then Thomas Keller must tolerate Guy Fieri—but the culinary world combines elegance and grit in a way no other industry does, and for that we make chefs rock stars. The latest example? Eat Ink, a collection of profiles chronicling the professional lives of sixty chefs, as seen through their tattoos and their ink.

Being a chef is the sort of job where you can show up with full sleeve, and judging by Eat Ink, many do. John Eisenhart of Pazzo Ristorante owes his to the fact that he lived with tattoo artists for a while and didn’t have to pay for his sleeve of parody images of packaged foods. An obscure choice, to be sure, but his food can be too; he contributes a recipe for Batsoa, one of the earliest recorded dishes from Peidmont, and something he’s trying to revive. Justin Warner, of Do or Dine, opts for a more minimal approach, with the logo for Kewpie mayonnaise on his right forearm. However, none is needed to make his frog legs with a spicy Dr Pepper glaze. Christina Wilson, of Gordon Ramsay Steak, has the Latin for “In matters of taste, there can be no dispute”, tattooed to her ribcage; it’s a sentiment worth pondering as you make her pan roasted fillet with glazed heirloom carrots, gorgonzola potato puree, and red wine bone marrow sauce.

Eat Ink is something of a migratory book. It might live on your coffee table for a week or so, to be leafed through by visitors browsing tattoos the same way people once browsed impressionists. Then it’ll slip into your messenger bag, and you’ll be balancing it on one knee while you’re copying down ingredients you’ll need to hunt down during a post-work market sojourn. Then it’ll be in your kitchen, guiding you towards the perfect duck frites or lobster rolls. The process has a way of repeating itself, and, at the moment, shows no sign of relenting.

Dave Robson is the editor of DailyXY. He spends his time reading books, drinking Scotch, and smoking cigars.

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