Chef Tattoos

The art chefs produce is ephemeral, but some of Honolulu’s professional cooks have inked permanent culinary references onto their bodies.

Photos by: Martha Cheng

Andrew Le, sous chef at Chef Mavro

just wanted something that would be fun, chef-inspired, but also tied to who I am,” says Le. “I always grew up eating pork and I’m born in the year of the pig.” His tattoo of a pig, with the primals outlined, has also on occasion served as a reference—when he forgets the location of a porcine cut, or when he’s pointing out which part of the pig your dinner came from. But mostly, it’s just fun—people request to see it when they spy the snout peeking out from under his sleeve, and he still gets a kick out of making it dance by flexing his bicep.


Kaimana Lee, cook at V Lounge

Lee has a knife and steel, the fundamental tools of any professional cook, inked on the inside of both his forearms. “I like the concept of having my main tools on my main tools,” Lee says. “Main tools, as in knife and steel and arms and hands.” When he got those tattoos, he was doing a lot of knife work, butchering fish. These days, he spends more time in front of V Lounge’s kiawe-burning oven, shaping pizzas, so, he has added a  pizza peel—on his outer forearm—to his inked toolkit.


Alejandro Briceno, chef at V Lounge

First came the chemical composition of sucrose, which takes up the entire length of Briceno’s right forearm. Prior to crafting pizzas at V Lounge, Briceno spent his culinary career in pastry. “I wanted to get a tattoo about pastry … but I didn’t want to get a cupcake or a whisk,” says Briceno. “In pastry, what are you going to get that doesn’t look cheesy, you know what I mean?” So he settled on sucrose. “What I like about pastry is that it’s more chemical, it has to be exact all the time.” On the other arm, he has a pizza peel. He emphasizes the organic feel of the peel, down to the detail of the wood grain. “This is a little more natural,” he says. He finds the art of pizza to be more about touch and feel, rather than pastry, which tends to rely on formulas. One arm represents “what I used to do,” Briceno says, and the other, “what I’m doing now.”


Ed Kenney, chef/owner Town and Downtown at the HiSam

“The Slow Food snail symbolizes why I do what I do,” says Kenney. “It’s the reason I’m in the res-taurant business. It’s about food, bringing together people, the role food plays in our lives, the connections.” The snail is the emblem of Slow Food, an organization that promotes food culture and traditions and believes in a relationship between farmers, cooks and eaters, otherwise known as co-producers and partners in the food production process.