by Abby DiBenedetto | Photographs by Rob Larson for WHIRL
Tattoos have long been representative of individualists, people whose lifestyles just don’t jive with mainstream ideals. Rock legends adorn themselves with tats, sailors too, and the cook sautéing your salmon at that five-star restaurant has at least one full-sleeve. After speaking with multiple members of the restaurant industry, it is clear that most identify with this sense of nonconformism. They’re a unique breed, and to work in the restaurant business for any extended amount of time — you have to be. Whether it’s front of the house or back, working in a restaurant is hard.
It’s mid-morning, and in a couple of hours people are going to be hungry for lunch. Chefs, cooks, bartenders, dishwashers, servers, and servers assistants all begin filtering in through the restaurant’s back door entrance. Each starts his or her respective prep work for the upcoming shift (some go straight to the soda machine for refreshment — they’re hungover from the night before), knowing that they have a limited amount of time before shit hits the fan. The kitchen is hot — really hot — and the sweat seems to start poring the minute the first diner walks through the door. From there, it’s go time. Guests are seated, orders are taken, dishes are fired, checks are delivered, and tables are turned over. Servers fly in and out of the kitchen, slugging a drink of water when they can, and cooks squint up to see their next ticket, never stopping their current task at hand. This cycle happens over and over for hours until the number of diners walking through the door wanes, and the shift ends (hopefully in time for a break before dinner).
Working in a restaurant requires a skill set you can’t pick up anywhere else and people who will flourish in the environment seem to be naturally drawn to it. They are passionate, expressive people who are absolutely unique, but happen to have a lot in common. Like the crew of a ship they work together, seamlessly championing shift after shift at the city’s busiest restaurants — banded together by their passion for food and the art that they wear on their bodies. While the art that they create may be fleeting — savored by diners then disappeared — tattoos are lasting mark of their industry. A badge of honor for finding the place where they belong and nourishing the city in which we live.
Andrew Hebson: Corporate Executive Chef of Big Y Restaurants
Mike Lamantia: Executive Chef at PNC Firstside
Elizabeth King: Executive Chef of the Market @ New Ken.
Dan O’Leary: Cook at Cioppino Restaurant and Cigar Bar
Iza Rynski: Server at Industry Public House
Kevin Kelly: General Manager of Square Cafe
Paul Village: Chef at Walnut Grove, Fox Chapel
Richard DeShantz: Executive Chef of Meat & Potatoes
This article is featured in the November 2012 issue of WHIRL Magazine.
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