Cape Town Chefs Tell Us the Stories Behind Their Tattoos

23/May/2017
Jess Spiro

These days it seems you can’t spit without hitting a tattooed chef. It’s clear that there is some unwritten rule that if you cook, you must be inked too. Not that we’re complaining, the popularity of tattoos in the culinary world only serves to further the intriguing element of chefs. Considering chefs are known to be fiery and tattoos are meant to be deeply personal, it seems another way of them wearing their hearts on their sleeves. We get a glimpse at the tattoos of some of our favourite chefs in Cape Town, as well as the stories behind them.

Cynthia Rivera //
Owner & Chef in the kitchen at Mulberry & Prince

Age of first tattoo: I booked my first tattoo appointment for my 23rd birthday.  My mother isn’t a huge fan of tattoos so I waited out of respect. I was earning my own money by then, so I was just like ‘fuck it’. Plus, my father is tatted up so I figured she will get over it but she hasn’t…sorry Mom!
Most recent tattoo:  My elbow… which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Artist: My right shoulder is done by Rachel Hauer(@RachelHauer). I have a piece on my left arm by a guy named John (@johno_tattooer). The rest of my left arm is by Tanya (@ladylucktattooartist) here in Cape Town.
Inspiration: Nature. Romanticism. People. Architecture. I’m a huge fan of black work and flowers.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? For sure. Everyone has their own vice. Whether it be tattoos, shoes or makeup. If it makes you feel good then go for it!
Do you have a favourite? The skull on my shoulder is my favourite because it’s my version of the skull my father has on his shoulder.  My dad has some pretty cool tattoos and that’s actually my #1 inspiration.
Which one hurt the most? My hand and dagger hurt only because I screwed myself over the night before and drank a little too much.  I’ve learnt my lesson.

mulberryandprince.co.za  | 12 Pepper Street, Cape Town

Cynthia Riveria Mulberry & Prince


Rikku Ó’Donnchü //
Owner YUZU Kitchen & Bar

Rikku Chefs & Their tattoos Yuzo

Age of first tattoo: 16
Most recent tattoo: Flames on my wrist.
Artist: Lee Smith.
Inspiration: Kitchen stoves.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? I did when I was younger, now I really have to know what I want before I get it… that feeling can last for years.
Which one hurt the most? My elbows!
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? We’re creative, artists of our trade if you will. Most chefs I know have at least one tattoo, I think it’s because we are artists and in most cases, quite interesting individuals, so we also use body art as a way of expressing that.

yuzu.co.za | 75 Kloof Street | Yuzu Review


Christi Semczyszyn //
Head Chef in the Kitchen at Tjing Tjing Torii & Dear Me

Age of first tattoo: 18
Most recent tattoo: Blackwork paisley on the back of my head.
Artist: Chris De Villiers at Good Things (@chrisd3viltattoos).
Inspiration: I got an undercut and thought I needed something pretty to fill the space 🙂
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? It’s another way to express our personalities and it’s a job where it’s not frowned upon. I think it’s also got a bit to do with the masochistic nature of it. We’re in a stressful, uncomfortable environment all day, every day, but we love it, just like being tattooed.
Do you have any you regret? My first one was a star on my stomach. I didn’t really research the artist much and he wasn’t very good, so the lines were all blurry and it was very raised. Then I got pregnant and it really messed it up. I’ll get it covered up one day when I’m done with babies. I don’t really regret any of them though. It was a learning curve and has sentimental value.
Do you have any fun anecdotes about one of your tattoos? Like, did you get one drunk or as a dare? I’ve got a bow on the back of my neck that I got at a fundraiser for prostate cancer. It was in a bar in London and the guy just free handed it by the light of a single lightbulb, while I sat on the couch, after a good few drinks. Not my smartest moment. Still, don’t regret it.

dearme.co.za | tjingtjing.co.za | 165 Longmarket Street

Chatting to Christi

Christi Dear Me


The Team at Foliage Restaurant, Franschhoek

Chris Erasmus //
Owner & Head Chef in the kitchen at Foliage Resturant, Franschhoek

hefs_tattoos_foliage--Chris-Erasmus

Age of first tattoo: 22
Most recent tattoo: 2 weeks ago.
Artist: Robert Turner – Salty Dog Tattoo Studio. (Facebook)
Inspiration: Thundercats!
Do you have a favourite? I love my night forest on my leg.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? Very! It’s partly the relief after a 4-hour piece is done…
Which one hurt the most? My butt… rump.
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? We like the pain… and we get to express a part that we can’t with food.
Do you have any you regret? Yes, that I didn’t start younger…
Do you have any fun anecdotes about one of your tattoos? Like, did you ever get one drunk or as a dare? I got really tanked one night and Rob stayed over at my house, it was my birthday… I ended up with the human meat cuts tattooed on my back, hence the rump part 🙂 It was supposed to be a Betty Page pin-up…

Mushroom Hunting with Chris Erasmus | Visting Foliage Restaurant | Chefs & Music

chef-Chris-Erasmus-bow-and-arrow_foliage-


Nicolaas Oosthuizen //
Sous Chef in the kitchen at Foliage

chefs_Nicolaas_foliage

Age of first tattoo: 24-years old.
Most recent tattoo: Honey fungus tattoo.
Artist: Robert Turner – Salty Dog Tattoo Studio. (Facebook)
Inspiration: Fungi.
Do you have a favourite? All of them.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? Yes, for sure.
Which one hurt the most? Upper arm piece.
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? Freedom of expression.
Do you have any you regret?  No, dig em all.
Do you have any fun anecdotes about one of your tattoos? Like, did you ever get one drunk or as a dare? Got one being part of a proud cheffing brotherhood.


Mike //
Senior Chef de Partie in the kitchen at Foliage

Chef-Michael_foliage-

Age of first tattoo: 22, on my chest.
Most recent tattoo: Soulless demon girl on my leg.
Artist: I are Thomas at Disciples Ink in Stellenbosch (does all my traditional style tattoos disciplesink.co.za) and my main artist I always use is Mark Day at Deadrocker Tattoos in Philadelphia, Cape Town (@markdaytattoos).
Inspiration: People in my life, difficult times and hard lessons learnt in life.
Do you have a favourite? My sleeve and my finger tattoos.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? Yes, they are very addictive; the only time I’ll stop is when I have no more space left.
Which one hurt the most? Legs, feet and elbow.
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? Chefs have so many tattoos ’cause they’re rad. The pain is also a big part of it – shows you what your limits are in terms of testing your body and ability to grit through tough times
Do you have any you regret?  Don’t regret any of them, they all have their own uniqueness.


Carina Garrett //
Sous Chef in the kitchen at Foliage

Chefs Tattoos Carina

Age of first tattoo: 15-years old.
Most recent tattoo: Salvador Dali elephant.
Artist: Pure Prophecy Tattoo Studio (Facebook).
Inspiration: Salvador Dali artwork.
Do you have a favourite? Tattoo of my deceased grandmother’s hand.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? Yes.
Which one hurt the most? The elephant on my chest.
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? Chefs are secretly masochists.
Do you have any you regret?  No.
Do you have any fun anecdotes about one of your tattoos? Like, did you ever get one drunk or as a dare? I got the dragon on my stomach age 15, drank neat whiskey to get through the pain.


Estelle Kasner //
Junior Chef De Partie in the kitchen at Foliage

Chef-Michael_foliage-

Age of first tattoo: Five years ago.
Most recent tattoo: 1 year ago.
Artist: Robert Turner – Salty Dog Tattoo Studio (Facebook).
Inspiration: Fairy tales and Foliage.
Do you have a favourite? All of them.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? Depends on the day.
Which one hurt the most? The one on my forearm.
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? Expression.
Do you have any you regret?  The first 2 had bad ink.
Do you have any fun anecdotes about one of your tattoos? Like, did you ever get one drunk or as a dare? Nope, just memorable ones.


Glen Foxcroft Williams //
Owner & Head Chef in the kitchen at Foxcroft Restaurant & Bakery

Glen-Foxcroft-Williams Chef

Age of first tattoo: 23
Most recent tattoo: I only have 1 for now.
Artist: Stefan Draak (@die_draak).
Inspiration: Had the idea for the whisk in my head for a while, then was inspired by Stefan’s watercolour tattoos. Stumbled across the word Soigné and decided to book the tattoo the next day. Left Stefan with a lot of creative freedom and ended up with a beautiful artwork.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? Yes and no, I have plenty planned but I’m in no rush to get them all done quickly.
Which one hurt the most? The ink-splash bit near the elbow was rough and the colour was quite bad as it was a last minute addition and went over all the fresh black and grey work.
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? I think it originated with chefs generally being slight outcasts but now I feel like it’s just another way of creative expression for people who are generally creative.

foxcroft.co.za | High Constantia Centre

Glen-Foxcroft


Ash Heeger //
Owner & Head Chef in the Kitchen at ASH

chefs_tattoos_ASH-Heeger

Age of first tattoo: 18
Most recent tattoo: Got it about 3 months ago. It’s a girl in an old school bathing suit, diving into a wild boar’s mouth whilst holding a knife.
Artist: Manuela Gray (@manuelagray)
Inspiration: I noticed a similar design in Manuela’s studio whilst getting another tattoo. The boar was a crocodile, and there was no knife involved. Manuela had the idea for the boar and knife. Loved the idea, so here we are.
Do you have a favourite? Gosh, it changes all the time. Normally my most recent one is the fave but at the moment I’d say the design on my right calf is my favourite.
Do you find getting tattoos addictive? Yup.
Which one hurt the most? It’s different for everyone, but my legs are a killer. Hands are also right up there.
Why do you think so many chefs have tattoos? Chefs are creative beings. Tattoos are a chance to showcase that creativity and personality. We also spend the majority of our lives in a uniform, so being able to cover your body with art is how we get to express ourselves. Another thing to note is that chefs generally aren’t your “vanilla” 9-5, conventional kind of folk. This industry attacks the unconventional. Tattoos generally follow.
Are any of yours related to your career? I’ve got a few food ones. An ice-cream cone, cherries, watermelon, a wishbone, and the wild boar.
Do you have any fun anecdotes about one of your tattoos? Like, did you ever get one drunk or as a dare? Hmmm… I’ve gotten pretty much all of my tattoos whilst extremely hungover. Not ideal- there’s a lot more blood involved. Also, a word of advice, never ever get matching tattoos with your significant other or a mate. It never ends well. Keep it strictly family, trust me.

chefs_tattoo-Ash heeger

ashrestaurant.co.za| 81 Church Str

Read our interview with Ash | Visiting ASH Restaurant

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