The sto­ries be­hind Toronto chefs and their umpteen tat­toos

Toronto Life - - Contents - pho­to­graphs by brilynn fer­gu­son —Jes­sica Bloom

Toronto’s chefs and bar­tenders are a tat­ted-up bunch. They’ve got let­ters on their knuck­les, elab­o­rate il­lus­tra­tions un­der their sleeves and inky odes to their restau­rants on just about ev­ery bare patch of skin. Toronto pho­tog­ra­pher Brilynn Fer­gu­son doc­u­ments those tat­toos and the sto­ries be­hind them in her on­go­ing se­ries In­dus­try Ink. Over the past four years, she’s shot 300 por­traits for the project. “Chefs are by na­ture very cre­ative peo­ple, com­ing up with new dishes and pair­ings all the time,” she says. “Food is con­sum­able art, and tat­toos are wear­able art. They’re both forms of cre­ative ex­pres­sion.” Here, 16 of our favourite tats, decoded.

Josh Lind­ley • Chante­cler • 2014 “I used to work in a tat­too par­lour and would see these big guys come in want­ing the tough­est chest tat­too they could get. I de­cided to get the least­in­tim­i­dat­ing chest tat­too. Just get­ting it is hard enough; you don’t need it to look tough, too.”

Nathaniel El­liott • Cac­tus Club • 2015 “I got my first tat­too on my shoul­der when I was in high school. It says, ‘Hard work beats ta­lent when ta­lent doesn’t work hard.’ It had a lot of mean­ing when I was play­ing bas­ket­ball back then and still does now in the kitchen.”

Alexan­dra Feswick • Drake Devon­shire • 2015 “My brother and I both have our last name tat­tooed on our sides. We spelled it the tra­di­tional Ukrainian way: Fe­suk. It was changed to Feswick when my fam­ily moved to Canada be­cause Fe­suk was con­sid­ered a ‘gypsy’ name.”

Mike Tan • Rose and Sons • 2017 “My Cam­bo­dian par­ents met in a Thai refugee camp af­ter flee­ing dur­ing the rule of the Kh­mer Rouge. They mar­ried so it would be easier to get refugee sta­tus in Canada. My tat­too is of the tem­ples at Angkor Wat, a tie to my her­itage.”

Michael Hunter • Antler • 2015 “The tat­too on my chest com­mem­o­rates the first buck I shot, which is hang­ing in Antler. I hunt for meat, and it was a spe­cial mo­ment. It’s a re­minder to be grate­ful.”

Reed Pet­tit • Miss Thing’s • 2016 “The 1857 on the gun han­dle is for the year the Miller Tav­ern was built. It was the first place I re­ally got into bar­tend­ing and mak­ing cock­tails.”

So­nia Mondino • Pray Tell • 2014 “I got my first tat­too in mem­ory of my Nonna. She took care of me grow­ing up, and she’s the one who taught me how to cook.”

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