Pros: Contemporary, visual stunner
Cons: Somewhat similar genres of food, but not to a fault
by Birk O'Halloran (Author) , Daniel Luke Holton (Author)
Reviewed by Jim Berman
Cooks are branded into their field. They wear “I’m a cook” as a badge of honor; a war wound, a number across a mug shot. When you shake hands with a cook, you feel the rugged callousness of their hands from sweeping the carnage across their cutting board or hefting a ten-inch chef’s knife over many long nights. They are much like members of a gang; they brandish colors and have lifted heads when they tell of their occupation. There is no I’m “just” a cook. Hell no! “Just” is for somebody else, but not a cook. It’s a pride thing. We’ll tell anybody that cares to listen and even those that do not want to have their ear bent, will know by the end of the cocktail party that the cheese display could have used more sheep’s milk cheeses, the lollypop chops were hammered into oblivion and the bread pudding’s whiskey sauce was perfect. Yeah, they’ll know just by getting an earful of cook-speak and the assumptions will be made. We band together and we harbor a particular, imaginative, kitchen bravado.
The gush of creative expression from a busy kitchen does not start and end with the dish that lands on the table. There is the kitchen music and the flourish of visually adventurous cooks’ attire. There is even a compelling vernacular that is part of the culinary world’s unique geography. And what a cook stores in his/her refrigerator for off-hours consumption can be described as abstract artwork at best, decadence and deviance at worst. A tattoo is part of a cook’s kitchen vocabulary, as well. Adorned with favorite primal cuts, favorite terra-borne species and canned ingredients, tattoos are yet another medium for a cook. Why stop with the plate as a blank canvas when the artwork can creep its way up knuckles, forearms, necks and beyond?
Birk O’Halloran and Daniel Holton pulled a Bourdain move! You know the one; wrote a book that you knew you simply should have written. Bourdain unearthed the cook’s devilish life of debauchery and fine dining that, in one form or another, we have all lived. O’Halloran and Holton did much the same; they wrapped up some serious culinary firepower with a collection of ink-adorned skin and cooking intellect of some serious chefs. In Eat Ink, the duo get into the psyche of the chefs and cooks; the drive behind their food, the impetus for their skin art and their approach to creating, bridging or otherwise intertwining the two mediums.
From the visually explosive vegetable bounty on Andy Husbands’s shoulder (executive chef/owner of the restaurants Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel) to the stoic, “de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum” chest ink of Christina Wilson (exec chef at Gordon Ramsay Steak) the tattoos are expressive as the food that this collective represent. Eat Ink is coolly composed with Food Network talent, James Beard winners and lesser-known luminaries. From those characters, there is the inspiration for their dishes, the ink they wear, their kitchen philosophies and psychology of these culinary miscreants! Five sections representing meat, sea fare, poultry/foul, vegetables, and sweets provide easy navigation to Eat Ink’s 300 pages. Ripe with some 60 recipes, Eat Ink is for me and for you. It is for cooks that need to refocus on what drives us. It is for the novice, kitchen hack that wants to see what the guy that makes his food on a Saturday night behind the line looks like and, often, thinks about cooking. Eat Ink is for members of the tattooed generation that want to know what they want to be when they grow up; that they will gladly sport those ink-stained arms, knuckles and chests, but will need to invest some sweat equity if they want that needle-driven artwork to mean even more than an attention grabber. O’Halloran and Holton artistically dispense the cooks that share the needle that deliver an endorphin rush through and from the kitchen to the voracious appetites of eaters that want to relish in the absurdity that makes great food come to life.
Andy Husbands, Eat Ink, p.13