Tattoos aren’t just for musicians, bikers, or hipsters anymore. These days tattoos are almost as common in restaurant kitchens as chefs’ whites. And of course behind every tattoo is a story.
That’s why The Chef’s Connection, in what will be an ongoing series, is asking chefs to share their ink and the meaning behind it.
First up is executive chef Steve Dustin of Monument Lane in the West Village. Dustin’s culinary tattoo, which he got from tattoo artist Gabriel Pantoja at Brooklyn Tattoo, reflects his approach to cooking, which focuses on highlighting local, market-driven ingredients.
See what he has to say about his porky tat and find out what he plans to put on his arm next.
What’s the story behind your pretty sizable pig tattoo?
We all know that I’m a chef so my interest in a food tattoo just made sense – as long as tattoos are something that make sense to you. At the moment, the finished tattoo will be a happy pig sitting in a field of grass with apples and a blue sky, a black sea bass below the pig, and fruits, mushrooms, root vegetables down the forearm. All other spaces with be filled in with more veggies.
Why did you choose a pig in particular?
As far as animals go, everything on a pig can be used for food. Head, snout, ears, jowls, shoulder, ham, shanks, trotters, tail and the bones. Everything can be used and this is something that we pride ourselves on doing at Monument Lane. I also didn’t want the typical pig tattoo. I requested from Gabriel to have a “happy pig”. All animals will have one bad day heading to slaughter, but that doesn’t mean that they have to have bad lives. A happy pig is a tastier pig!
What about the black sea bass that you’re adding?
I’m a fisherman in my spare time, which I do not have much of these days. I fly fish, spin fish and salt water fish. I have fished the Great Lakes in Michigan for salmon and lake trout, the small lakes in Michigan and Canada for pike, bass, and walleye, the rivers of both Colorado and Georgia for trout, and now the Atlantic ocean for wild stripe bass, black sea bass, ling Cod, and bluefish. I have served most of these fish in my restaurants and strive to have an environmentally positive impact by using only sustainable fish.
And the veggies and fruit?
Our world, especially the United States, has traveled down a dangerous path of eating too much meat and not enough whole fruits and veggies. Not only just eating too much meat, but also eating too much processed food in general. The fruits and vegetable are just a reminder that you should be eating a balanced diet. Everything in moderation.