Chefs are notorious for their tattoos. It seems to come with the kitchen attire, along with the toque and tidy whites. Stephanie Izard has a fish on her wrist while Bryan Voltaggio has a hog etched on his left arm. Marc Forgione has wild turkey feathers, while Hugh Acheson sports a radish. Artists appreciate art and so chefs having tats isn’t actually surprising. What’s remarkable though is the story behind each one of them, as it tells of a memory worth immortalizing.

Francis Lim, chew/owner of Nav and Tipple and Slaw

“The French culinary phrase mise en place means to put everything into place. I put it on the left because it’s my weaker hand in terms of cooking. When everything’s in order, it helps make things more efficient, make it more organized. It’s a reminder. Above that are stars, which basically symbolize reaching for the stars. It also is a note that everything is possible.”

Chef and food consultant Francis Lim's tattoos are inked on his left arm, his non-dominant cooking arm

David Cruz, chef/owner of 5060 and business development chef for Nestle Philippines

“Thyme, rosemary, dill, and coriander—these are herbs that I’m comfortable using, even for beverage. It’s accompanied by a heart, which is a reminder to live life to the fullest and a crayon, a humble thing made from just wax and a coloring agent but which everyone has held—it’s human connection. For me, cooking is more of a craft, which I’m still a student of. The passion comes in human connection via food. That’s what gets my motor running.”

David Cruz's tattoos consist of thyme, rosemary, dill, and coriander—herbs that he's comfortable using

Nicco Santos, chef/owner of Sambar and formerly of Hey Handsome

“My family would always go up the mountains: to Baguio or to Tagaytay. The tattoo is actually a big mountain as seen from the top with a road running in the middle. It also doubles as a turmeric leaf, which is the last leaf I worked with heavily when I was in Singapore. A Peranakan family introduced me to it.”

For Nicco Santos, his tattoo can be seen in two ways: a topographical view of a mountain and a turmeric leaf

Paul Samson, owner of The Cookery and regional chef consultant for Nestle Philippines

“Ice cream is a happy food. But I’m lactose intolerant so it’s an irony. I like it but I can only eat it in small amounts. It’s also nostalgic. My dad and I would go to Intramuros when I was a kid and eat ice cream in pandesal.”

Paul Samson's ice cream tattoo is a poke at irony—he's lactose intolerant

Originally published in F&B Report Vol. 14 No. 1