Speak Up

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Marks of a Chef

Eric Simpson is the tournant at Perry St. and works very closely with my chefhusband. I sat down with him (via Myspace) to discuss his tattoos, particularly his left arm which is covered in food tattoos. When I first met Eric a while back I was intrigued with it and I’m so grateful to be able to share it with you. It seems like there are many chefs with tattoos; The NY Times did an article complete with slideshow on the matter back in 2005.

H: What was your first tattoo and when did you get it?
E: My first tattoo was the sun on my back; I got it when I was seventeen. The food sleeve is a funny thing. I mean, there are many ways of looking at it. There are the individual foods, the overall piece of art, inspiration, etc. I suppose there are two reasons for the food sleeve. One, the obvious because of the love for my creative medium. Two, it started with one food tattoo that I got in remembrance of a close friend who passed away.

H: Tell me what is on the “food sleeve”.
E: The food sleeve has the fish (opakapaka or crimson snapper), a pheasant, chickens, pig, rabbit, rib eye, and some veggies. There are a few little empty spaces that need to be filled and I’ve been telling everyone to help me decide what should fill the gaps.

H: What else needs to be done to complete it?
E: Oh man, there is a long way to go as you can see in the picture! I’d say it will take a few more months of work with artist/maniac Seth Wood at Daredevil Tattoos* (located on the Lower East Side) He is definitely one of the best there is. The best part about it is that Seth is a vegan. We have had some great talks about ethics and morals and food and tattoos to no end.

H: Tell me about your other tattoos. Any that you regret?
E: You know well enough that I have my share of tattoos and it is a strange relationship. Other than that my tattoos go from a moustache to bumble bees to an anatomical heart to a slightly pornographic robot. My first tattoo (the stupid sun on my back) is my least favorite, but I don’t regret it at all. It was a catalyst for tattoos to come and definitely marked a time in my life

H: Now, explain this pornographic robot…
E: Ha, I knew I was asking for trouble bringing up the robot. It’s on my thigh so it rarely gets noticed to begin with. It’s kind of an outlet of my comic cynicism, mixed with a reference to an eighties sci fi movie called Cherry 2000(it’s kind of about the perfect wife gone wrong). The tattoo is a topless blonde with her robot face exposed, looking kind of rusty and broken. Behind that is a banner that says 'true love'.

H: Perfect wife gone wrong? Oh there are so many chefwife comments in here, but I’ll hold back because I like you, Eric Simpson. I do love the idea of the anatomical heart. I'm a huge fan of science and heart seems very romantic to me. Your thoughts behind the heart?
E: The anatomical heart is also wood grained. It is my quiet homage to Pinocchio - yep, there's the sensitive side 'I just want to be a real boy"...ha.

H: So, do you like girls with tattoos or does it matter at all?

E: Tattoos on girls? It depends on the girl. Some people wear tattoos better than others. On the right girl, it’s just that much more right.

H: I agree with you completely about women and tattoos and I feel the same way for men; it all depends on who can pull it off. (I think I just answered my final question! haha) I think most chefs can-the whole artistic cheftosterone thing.
Speaking of ladies-do you ever find it hard to get dates with your schedule?
E: My schedule makes it difficult to get second dates...ha! Ok, I’m exaggerating. The lifestyle is definitely a stumbling block for dating but is by no means insurmountable.

H: And your career, where have you been and where do you plan on going?
E: Career wise, I started out in Miami, worked in a couple fine dining restaurants there (post cooking school). Then wound up busting my ass for the sake of working in a Michelin star kitchen in England - it was before the Michelin guide came to the states, so it felt like a huge deal to work in a Michelin star kitchen. From there, back to Miami until it just didn’t seem fast paced enough for me, leading me to NYC and working at Perry Street.
I’d say I simply want to focus my future on growing as a chef in NYC and then take it from there...

H:Ever been turned down for a job based on your tattoos?
E: I have never had an issue with my tattoos and new jobs. I try to carry myself in a way that shows confidence in my appearance, hoping that others follow suit. Funny thing is that the prospective employers usually point them out and ask about them. My point of view has always been that the quality of my work speaks for itself, everything else - tattoos included, are secondary.

H: I’m thinking of getting a tattoo on my inner bottom lip: “chefwife”….too much?
E: Hilary, I outright dare you to get that tattoo! Plus, getting your lip tattooed is almost 'semi permanent' - tattoos tend not to hold up too well there and don’t really hurt... in reality, I’d probably drop dead on the spot if you actually did that.

And we ended with that. I’ll keep you posted on my tattoo, I’m leaning towards no, but probably one day when I’m feeling tyra-banks-fierce I’ll bust out that pouting lip used for crying to the chef and get inked.

*Daredevil Tattoos' very own Seth is responsible for the art on Eric’s arm. They have even worked on Chef Aaron Sanchez from Paladar, whose restaurant is across the street.

Ideas for comments:
-How awesome is Eric’s arm?
-Does your chef have a tattoo…or a food tattoo?
-Ideas for filling in Eric's food sleeve!! ( I think Erik should pick his favorite fruit/veg from each season and put them on this arm)



becky said...

It's weird to think that that accomplished and decorated chef used to bite me and pull my hair, and put soap on my toothbrush. Eric is my little brother and I don't think I could be any more proud of him.

Great artwork, and I'd love to see more of the tattoos (but not TOO much, being family and all!)

Anonymous said...

how about a whisk? a bonnet stove? an apple tree? his favorite knife? a Desperate Chefs Wives logo? ha!

My chef, every once in a while, decides he wants a tattoo, but he's never gone through with it. I just asked him now what he would get, and he said, "I dunno."


Anonymous said...

I think he's sexy. He's got that whole Punk-Rock-Christian-Bale- With-Downs-Syndrome-And-A-Heroine- Addiction thing going on. I want him to have my babies. Little tatooed babies with asymmetrical haircuts.

Hilary Battes said...

um...I know who you are above me. Nice try being anonymous..."asymetrical haircut"..."downs syndrome"!?!

Anonymous said...

My chef is inked, but nothing food related. I think he definitely should go that route for his next tattoo though. I once worked with a girl (we were both pastry cooks) who had all different kinds of candy & sweets tattoos. It just fit her and her personality to a t.

Anonymous said...

I think Eric should have cherry tomatos, or little mushrooms, or garlic to fill in those gaps.... Eric is sexy, but i do not want to have babies with asymmetrical haircuts. ha.

H. let me know when you are getting the lip tattoo. What about your chefhusband? does he wants any tattoo? of JG on his back???


Hilary Battes said...

Vivian...JG on his back? Come on, Erik would never. But I would. I'm aa JG lover.

totally kidding about the JG tattoo. I'm not a creeper.

Anonymous said...

Very cool tattoos!

Unknown said...

I know this is an old blog but I ran into this inked chef's picture about half a year ago while I was trying to get some ideas for a tattoo and well honestly I can't stop thinking is this guy single? haha this is ridiculous I know.

Hilary Battes said...

Yes Linda, He's single....