"I think we're all artsy people—we're all a little crazy. We like to express ourselves, whether with our food or with our bodies."

Johnny Iuzzini, executive pastry chef
Jean Georges (1 Central Park West)

Of all the tattooed chefs in New York City, Johnny Iuzzini might be the most famous. He got his first tattoo after a long journey backpacking across the world, during which he would volunteer in kitchens even if he didn't understand the language. That resulted in the Danish flag tattoo, a memento of a friend he'd made on the trip. Next up was a Mayan warrior, the symbol of a party he worked at the Palladium and a marker of the time he decided to finally quit the club circuit to pursue his culinary career full-time. There is a phoenix on his right arm, a symbol of rebirth inked after a tough year during which his mom fought cancer and his dad had a heart attack. He later got a large griffin on his arm, a tribute to his late mother, a wildlife rehabilitator who, like the griffin, was a guardian of sorts, taking care of sick animals in the Catskills until they could be released back into the wild. Both of his half-sleeves were done by Chris O'Donnell at New York Adorned, an artist he greatly respects: "I tell him the idea behind it and why I want it and let him do his art," Iuzzini says. "I would hate for someone to come into the kitchen with a picture of a cake and a recipe. It's like, what do you need me for then? I find people that I respect and trust and put it in their hands."

Emma Hearst
Mark Hewko
Emma Hearst
Johnny Iuzzini
Mark Hewko
Johnny Iuzzini

Jesse Schenker, executive chef
Recette (328 West 12th Street)

Jesse Schenker, an alum of Gordon Ramsay's the London NYC, takes the phrase "You are what you eat" further than most. His tattoo, which took more than eight hours to complete, is impressive: a piece of caul fat (the membrane surrounding a pig's internal organs) wrapped around a piece of meat—in this case, his entire forearm—punctuated by a slicer from Japanese knife-maker Misono.

"I just have an affinity for caul fat, the way it looks when it's stretched out," says Schenker. "It's almost like a web of fat. You wrap it around anything—meat, fish, duck, foie gras—and sear it. The classic French term is 'crépinette.' " It's a technique he loves, but one he usually reserves only for the fall and winter, when game is more available.

He actually brought a piece of caul fat into Addiction on St. Mark's to show his tattoo artist what it looked like, thus beginning the two-and-a-half-year process. That's not the only meaty tattoo he has on his body. He also has a T-bone steak on his shoulder, which is being cooked by a flaming skull. What's next? He's half-jokingly considering getting a tattoo of his spinal cord over his spine.

Brian Smith, cook
The Good Fork (391 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn)

The life of a cook is hard, whether he be human or Muppet. Such is the fate of the Swedish Chef, tattooed onto Brian Smith's stomach in 2001, who is depicted juggling his severed thumb along with various vegetables over the words "Born to Cook." Smith feels similarly fated to cook: His whole family was in the restaurant and bar business—his mother was a bartender, his stepfather a chef, his father a bartender, and his stepmother a hostess for 20 years. Smith started in the kitchen washing dishes at age 14, and when he found himself still in restaurants a decade later, he decided it was time to acknowledge his culinary history in ink form. He went to Tim Sellers, a/k/a Timmy Tatts, at Mark's Studio in State College, Pennsylvania, and had it all done in 45 minutes.

"I feel I'm pretty goofy," says Smith when asked if the tattoo reflected his demeanor on the line. "In the kitchen, things get very heated, literally and figuratively, and I see myself as kind of the clown trying to make people laugh and cool situations down."

Brie Huling, bartender
B Bar and Grill (40 East 4th Street) and d.b.a. Brooklyn (113 North 7th Street, Brooklyn)

"I've been a vegetarian for 15 years, so my tattoos are about my food politics, but also, each vegetable has a story about a person or experience in my life," says Brie Huling, who is covered just about everywhere with tattoos depicting artichokes, pea pods, horseradishes, and carrots, including one that is piloting a hot-air balloon. She also has "Grown in Oregon" stamped on her rear, a nod to her Eugene upbringing, and a sign of her casual and impulsive approach toward tattoos.

"I get them, maybe, when I'm bored, or when something bad happens in my life and I want to tell the story of whatever happened, but it's never really a premeditated thing," says Huling. "I don't want to get all wrapped up in thinking, 'Oh, this one thing is going to represent me for the rest of my life.' "

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