Cafe Society

Food Ink: "Luxurious MoFo" and Project Angel Heart chef Jon Emanuel shows off his sodium atom shoulder of art

As part of an upcoming photo essay project spotlighting Denver restaurant pros whose tatts 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.

This week, Jon Emanuel, the chef of Project Angel Heart, a local nonprofit that feeds 800 a people a day with life-threatening illnesses, is on show. "The stunning display of art atop my right shoulder, visible through the foliage, is an artistic interpretation of a sodium atom," explains Emanuel, who doesn't give a shit if you don't appreciate his thicket of black hair. "I know that I'm hairy. I'm downright furry, and I'm darn proud of it, too. I'm one luxurious mofo, and I wax for no one. So just get that out of your head right now."

Emanuel's tattoo, inked by William Thidemann of Th'Ink Tank Tattoo, came about, he says, "while sitting around gabbing with some scientist friends in the old galley at South Pole Station, Antarctica." The design, he continues, "conveys the relationship between two of my interests, food and science, and of course, sodium is a component of salt, which not only makes food taste good, but can also work some scientific magic on food."

It was either a tatt of that, says Emanuel, or a salt shaker. "I felt the representation of salt as an atom was a better homage to my respect for and interest in science and to my old scientist buddies down south."

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.

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.

We also pimped the pig ink of David Bumgardner, sous chef of Highland Tavern."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 told us.

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

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson