Cafe Society

Food Ink: Highland Tavern sous chef David Bumgardner is powered by the pig

As part of an upcoming photo essay project spotlighting Denver restaurant pros whose tats are as prevalent as their dissections, burns, blisters, knife slashes and stabs, we promised that we'd post some of the best ink on the Cafe Society blog.

We've already exposed the tats of Matt Selby, executive chef of Steuben's and Vesta Dipping Grill, Brandon Biedermann, chef de cuisine of Steuben's and Chad Clevenger, chef/owner of Mel's Bar & Grill, who described his tattoo as "a blue-footed Bresse chicken that's very fatty and tasty."

We also featured the bacon and eggs Mexican sugar skull that belongs to Erik Perez, who works as a bartender/server at Mezcal and a cook/server/bartender at Krameria Cafe. "I've worked in diners my whole life, cooking a lot of bacon and eggs, so this just made sense to me," explained Perez, who got inked earlier this year by Adrian Hernandez at Tin Man Tattoo.

Chase Wilbanks, chef de cuisine from La Tour in Vail, flashed a brilliant red tattoo of a crab, complete with a lemon, fork and plate. "I was sort of going for a seafood, ocean theme, but the tattoo was just freehand and random," says Wilbanks.

Last week, Liz Thomas, manager of Watercourse Foods, flaunted a food tat on her enviably taut belly. "It's a bulb of garlic, eggplant, carrots, tomato, a mushroom and a cupcake in the middle," says Thomas. "Basically, it's all my favorite vegetables -- the ones I couldn't live without -- and then a cupcake for my livelihood. I make dozen and dozens of cupcakes a day, and they're all vegan. I had to pay some respect!"

Proving that body art doesn't have to be complicated or the hue of Popsicles, Patrick Horvat, a former cook at Marczyk Fine Foods, and the new sous chef of Venue, chose a famous quote from French chef Auguste Escoffier, inked on his wrist, to profess his love for food and cooking. "It reminds me of how much time working in this industry takes and that good food can also be beautifully simple," explained Horvat.

This week, we're pimping the pig ink of David Bumgardner, sous chef of Highland Tavern. "My twin pigs, 'A Nice Sweet Meat' and 'Powered By Pork,' are modified versions -- I added the cutting diagrams -- of another illustration used by Marczyk Fine Foods," says Bumgardner. The tattoos, both of which Bumgardner got while working at Marczyk's, were belated birthday gifts to himself. "They represent my love of all things swine, and are a reminder of good times learning from the Marczyks and of my lifetime goal of someday having a pork-centric place of my own," he says. The piglets were inked by Adam Rosenthal at Th'Ink Tank.

If you're a restaurant/market employee with awesome food ink, send photos of your art (and the stories behind them) to [email protected].