For What It's Worth

Thursday, December 8, 2016

review: knives & ink:chefs and the stories behind their tattoos (with recipes) by isacc fitzgerald, wendy macnaughton

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Chefs take their tattoos almost as seriously as their knives. From gritty grill cooks in backwoods diners to the executive chefs at the world's most popular restaurants, it's hard to find a cook who doesn't sport some ink. Knives & Ink features the tattoos of more than sixty-five chefs from all walks of life and every kind of kitchen, including 2014 James Beard Award-winner Jamie Bissonnette, Alaska-fishing-boat cook Mandy Lamb, Toro Bravo's John Gorham, and many more. Each tattoo has a rich, personal story behind it: Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food remembers his mother with fiery angel wings on his forearms, and Dominique Crenn of Michelin two-starred Atelier Crenn bears ink that reminds her to do “anything in life that you put your heart into.” Like the dishes these chefs have crafted over the years, these tattoos are beautiful works of art. Knives & Inkdelves into the wide and wonderful world of chef tattoos and shares their fascinating backstories, along with personal recipes from many of the chefs. ~ Goodreads

Source: Purchased


I’m not a chef nor do I have (permanent) tattoos – but I sure do like to eat and have had fun using temporary tattoos. During my visits to NYC, I’ve been fascinated by how many chefs I see with gorgeous tattoos, usually of knives or vegetables for some reason, snaking up their arms. I always wonder what the story is behind the tattoo. Now I know at least some of those stories.

Knives & Ink is a “coffee table” book that’s both interesting and visually pleasing. Each chef profile is 1-2 pages with a drawing of the tattoo, the story behind the tattoo and occasionally a recipe.

The stories are deeply personal and range from funny to touching. They offer a peek into the mind of a chef and the the passion that fuels them through difficult times.

The recipes are fun but not the focal point. Not every chef has one. They range from simple salsa's to cooking a whole pig. This is not a recipe book. Those are just a bonus.

I was surprised that the tattoos themselves were shown as full color illustrations rather than photographs. In the forward the author explains that they felt a drawing would make the reader slow down and notice the details. I can understand what they were going for. The chef was drawn very simply vs the tattoo in great detail to make it pop. But honestly, I still would have preferred the photograph. I think the person and the tattoo are intertwined and enhance each other. Nevertheless the artwork was gorgeous and I enjoyed this book very much. Also, in this day and age of celebrity chefs, I was able to Google quite a few of them and see the real deal.

This would make a great holiday gift for the foodie in your life. Because of the short chapters, it could be a long leisurely read over many weeks (like I did), picking it up when you need a dose of something fun or breeze right through the whole book in a day.


  1. Replies
    1. It's a fun book. The stories are super quick reads. Some interesting ones too.

  2. Replies
    1. No. There aren't any TV popular chefs but so many are even locally famous that I was able to look up quite a few online.

      One is even in a band!

  3. Interesting! I like the idea of it, but agree I'd want to see a photograph.

    1. I understand what they were going for but I found it MORE distracting and kept wondering what the person/tattoo really looked like.

  4. I've never noticed Chef tattoos which is odd, b/c I usually do notice all tattoos. Love what you said about the person and the tattoo going together. Very true!

  5. Oh I like these kind of cookbooks! Especially since I really don't cook. ;) I also am curious about the illustrations. I would have also expected pics, but this brings a bit of a different side to them. Interesting!

    Btw, nice temp tats. :D All I will get as well even though I do like them.

  6. Oh that sounds cool. And I never knew that inked chefs was a thing! lol
    PS. I think I'd agree that I would have preferred photos as well.

  7. Very interesting and I do in fact know someone who would love this!

  8. This sounds great. I'm always interested in the story behind people's tattoos. I think the illustrations would be cool but you're right, I'd like the photo too.

  9. I love watching cooking shows personally and this would make a great coffee table book. Perfect for foodies and budding chefs for Christmas too. Thanks for sharing Karen, great gift idea! <3

  10. Good to hear that its balanced with the stories, and the tattoo parts sounds well done

  11. What an interesting thought for the book. I think I would have liked to see the real ink, too.

  12. oh my gosh...this sounds really fascinating especially with stories behind the ink. love that.

  13. What a wonderful concept! I haven’t heard about this book before, thanks so much for putting it on my radar. I would have preferred the photographs rather than illustrations too. You are right it’s a great gift idea!

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