Cooks’ Tattoos

Tattoos are no longer just for bikers and drunken sailors — athletes are proud to display Olympic rings, and suburban mothers sport their kid’s names inked on their wrists. But as everyday as tattoos have become, it is still a rite of passage for many. Cooks display some of the best-looking, most intricate tattoos. We looked for food stories on skin, and we found them.

Photos by Kevan Morin, Curtis Comeau Photography

Phil Marokus

armwhiteshirtMeat chef, Corso 32

Artist: Shannon Claydon, Atomic Zombie

Phil Marokus has the word foie on one set of knuckles, gras on the other. Down his left arm are a dozen oysters, along with an oyster knife. He’s been out of NAIT culinary school for four years and got his first tattoo at 18.

“The first thing I ate that was different was two dozen oysters when I was six. I loved them. It helped me understand from an early age what food could be. My sleeve will probably take close to 10 hours over six months. It needs more colour — has to be finished,” he says, referring to the arm full of delicately drawn oysters.

“I have a heart and fist on my left arm. Those are just random, but I guess you could say I wear my heart on my sleeve.

“Why tattoos? Why not tattoos?

“Your body is a canvas to express what you love in life. It expresses who I am — sometimes silly, sometimes serious. Society is getting more tattooed.

“In cooking, it’s almost an exception to not have tattoos. It would be weird to meet a cook who doesn’t have a tattoo.

“We’re all in an industry where the uniform is standard. Tattoos are a way to stand out, to have some individuality in a small cramped environment.

“I want to get a stack of pancakes on my thigh with a bottle of maple syrup but the pancakes would be stack of records; because that’s what I love: food and music.”

Tracy Zizek

tracy1Exec chef and co-owner, Café de Ville

Artist: Bradley Gobiel, Atomic Zombie

Tracy got her first tattoo in September 2012.

“I decided to take the plunge — it clicked, I realized I really wanted them. I went in with a basic idea. The intention was only one tattoo but when Bradley drew up a sleeve, that was it.”

Tracy’s sleeve is meat and confectionary — sides of beef and cupcakes.

“Plus my Shun knife,” says Tracy.

“It’s the story of my career. I started as a pastry chef and then as I progressed, I started to work more with meat. A side of beef or a side of lamb — they are beautiful.”

What’s next?

“A tribute tattoo for my grandmother when the time comes, not soon I hope.”

Brayden Kozak

Chef, co-owner, Three Boars Eatery

Artists: Jamer Lindsay, Bobby Tripp, Lucky Strike, Rob Hope, Rob Hope Tattoos

Brayden has butcher’s diagrams of beef and pork on each bicep, on his chest is an “epic chicken versus squid,” and on one forearm, a complicated angels and gargoyles work in progress.

“I got my first tattoo at 18. I had wanted to do it earlier but my mom found out and kaiboshed all that. My best friend, Ben, gave me a tattoo for my 18th birthday. He’s also the guy who did the paper boar’s head for the restaurant.

“I have nine tattoos, some quite humorous. The chest piece was the first kitchen related one. Jamer had never tattooed a chicken before — he bought a bunch of Japanese art books for inspiration.

“I have my little brother Jahryn’s signature tattooed on my right wrist. He died in an accident almost nine years ago. We wanted to get a family tattoo for him — we all went together, my parents and little sister.

“The butcher diagrams were done by Bobby Tripp at Lucky Strike. Rob Hope is doing the angels and gargoyle piece, also dedicated to Jahryn. It’s a work in progress, and Rob lives in White Rock, B.C. — terribly inconvenient.”

What’s with cooks and tattoos?

“Kitchens tend to attract that kind of person — it’s a safe place for weird people to congregate. You’re hidden from the diners, you can be yourself. It’s acceptable. When I see full sleeves, throats and knuckles, I think ‘obviously you’re a chef’.

“My next tattoo would be a picture my daughter drew quite some time ago. It’s a funny look at us through her three year-old eyes — she has vibrant rainbow hair. It’s absolutely adorable.”

Shane Chartrand

octopusExec chef, Von’s Steak and Fish House

Artist: Kevin Sung Yeung, FX incorporated


“I started this project three years ago. I had very bad pneumonia and when I finally started feeling better after three weeks, I thought ‘life is too short.’ I had always wanted a sleeve, a chef-related one.”

Shane’s arm teems with sea creatures and the most beautiful creations of the plant world — lily and artichoke meets sea snail and squid. Even the knife is decorated with tiny koi fish scales. It’s an intricate and beautiful work of art, even in its unfinished state.

“It’ll be done this month; it needs dragon fruit and filler,” says Shane.

“My first tattoo was a dedication to my parents, my mom and dad. I was in foster care until I was seven and they took me away from that.

“I do have an aboriginal symbol on my leg to celebrate that, but the whole arm thing is related to food.

“It’s all pretty new. It wasn’t like this when I was at NAIT; not every cook had tattoos. When I was in Calgary last year for Alberta Ate, not a single cook — and there were 25 of us — didn’t have a tattoo. My goodness, when did this happen?”

Chris Hyde

mermaidPasta chef, Corso 32

“I love all my tattoos but the piece that is talked about most would be my two-headed, three-breasted pirate girl. It doesn’t matter where I am, there’s always someone ready to make a comment about it, someone to tell me how amazing it is or, how could I have such a disgraceful image on my arm.”