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Tacos. Tattoos. Top Chef. Just another normal day at Eatocracy headquarters. Cooking is notably one of the great tattooed occupations, and when we received word that chef Bryan Voltaggio was getting his fifth tattoo, we decided to go above and beyond the call of journalistic duty and go along for the ride. The editorial team that tattoos together stays together. (It will all make sense in a second.)
Might we note that Bryan Voltaggio is the executive chef and owner of VOLT restaurant in Frederick, Maryland - which has earned three-stars reviews from both The Washington Post and Washingtonian. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and proud protégé of culinary mastermind Charlie Palmer, Voltaggio also competed on season six of Bravo's "Top Chef," where he was runner-up.
Without further ado, food and drink: meet food and ink.
Five Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them: Bryan Voltaggio
What had no meaning for at first, surprisingly ended up morphing into something somewhat meaningful to me. At some point, I discovered that Chinese symbols were considered to be lucky and that I was actually born in the year of the dragon - I can honestly say that luck was on my side in this case! Additionally, I recently busted my buddy Eli Kirshtein from 'Top Chef' for being credited with this tattoo in the 'Top Chef' cookbook that recently came out. Nice try Eli!”
After a year or two of pondering the idea, and checking out options at both my local tattoo shop in Frederick, and Kat Von D’s tattoo shop High Voltage Tattoo, I finally ended up at the Tattoo Lounge - a tattoo shop in Santa Monica, California, with my brother Michael. I began probing the artist there to see if he could print a scene I discovered featuring arctic char in an open-air market in Spain. Unfortunately, at the time, the tattoo artist was having issues with the printer at the shop. As I watched my brother get his tattoo, feeling somewhat defeated, I suddenly heard the printer kick back into gear, then noticed the artist I had been consulting with sketching the tattoo furiously.
This was the moment that I realized what a true art form crafting a tattoo was and just how passionate they really were about their work. This experience reflects a lot on my personality – patience is key. Art has such a profound meaning whether with tattoos or with food. And to this day, Michael is still jealous that I was able to make this unique tattoo a part of my ink collection.”
3. Nautical Star
4. TCB "Taking Care of Business"
As we all sat together getting the same tattoo late into the night about three months ago, I felt as if we were all in a band, and the fact that music was blaring in the shop during our session made this ink experience that much sweeter. I got my letters in red, black and yellow – the colors of Maryland, and a lightning bolt was streamed through the letters. This was Elvis’s bands logo, and I also remember it being featured on the wing of his plane and drum kits ... very cool."
After scouting various line sketches of the pig, I spoke with an artist who was able to craft a final sketch, including the unique lettering of Thacher's name, which he planned on placing right under the pig. I was thrilled to see the draft and decided to go for it. All of this occurred following a trip up to New York City to visit the Culinary Institute of America for the first time in 10 years. I detoured through Brooklyn to meet up with Eatocracy editors, Kat and Sarah, for the first annual 'Tacos and Tattoos' outing.
We met at Tacos Nuevo Mexico and devoured some of the best tacos I've had in a while. Chorizo, braised tongue, and roast pork. We were also joined by my sous chef Graeme Ritchie, and my tournant Justin Zawoysky, who both took part in the taco-noshing session but opted out of getting ink. Graeme, who has a sleeve in the works, seemed a bit anxious to get in the chair, but unfortunately time was not on our side. Justin, whom does not have any tattoos as of yet, expressed that as a result of our Brooklyn adventure, he is now inspired to make an appointment and go under the needle at some point in the near future.
Kat got one of the coolest tattoos I've seen in a while: a very sleek marrow spoon. And, what better placement then on the back calf? - if you know where osso bucco comes from. I dove back into the chair to get my fifth tattoo, one of the most meaningful pieces I am proud to show, a tribute to my son Thacher, my future sous chef."
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