For most chefs, cuts and burns are common—mere flesh wounds that come with their chosen trade. But the bodies of many Portland chefs also carry a more permanent decoration: tattoos. Even Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations, noted the large number of inked arms wielding knives and whisks in Portland in a 2007 segment on the Pacific Northwest.
Of course, in a town increasingly known for cutting-edge cuisine, perhaps it’s not surprising that the folks behind our food are a little edgy themselves. “Our craft is really artistic,” says John Gorham, Toro Bravo’s chef-owner. “I think a lot of chefs really appreciate art. And a tattoo is this raw art that you get to carry with you wherever you are.” In late November, seven local chefs (and one bartender) added to their skin art at a private and perfectly Portland gathering. Chefs paired off with tattoo artists from four different shops to add a food-inspired tattoo to their bodies; that night, tats still bandaged, each chef prepared a meal for his or her tattooist, inspired by their new ink.