Industry Ink: Killer Tattoos From the Little Rock Food World

Any trip inside a restaurant and it is easy to see that food industry people love tattoos almost as much as food itself. We rounded up some of our favorite tattoos from Little Rock food personalities to showcase their ink and get the story behind the tattoos.

Michael Carpenter, owner of Mugs Café

This tattoo is important to me as a follower of Christ and pastor of The Church at Argenta and particularly pointed in the current political climate in Arkansas. With things like HB1228 and people hiding their blatant discrimination against LBGT people behind the guise of religious liberty, this tattoo reminds me again that the emphasis in the church has for too long been one-sided. That is, priority has been given to people being reconciled to God without the companion responsibility to be reconciled to one another. This tattoo is a beautiful picture of both. One doesn't exist without the other.

photo by Greg Henderson

Michael Carpenter, owner of Mugs Café

photo by Greg Henderson
Michael Carpenter, owner of Mugs Café

photo by Greg Henderson

Phillip Schaaf, sous chef at South on Main

I have several tattoos. Most of them aren’t visible to just anyone, mainly because all of my tattoos are very personal to me, marking a certain point in my life or a certain event that had a great effect on me. I have never gotten a tattoo from a stranger, either. Matt O’Baugh at Black Cobra Tattoos did my most visible work. I have known Matt for a very long time, and he has become one of the greatest tattoo artists in this state and beyond. 

photo by Becca Bona

Phillip Schaaf, sous chef at South on Main

My grandmother had passed away and I wanted to pay tribute to her and my other grandmother who had passed many years before. I also wanted the tattoo to visually represent my heritage and where I had come from, so I went with a floral piece consisting of magnolia and apple blossoms. The magnolia is for my grandmother, Doris, in Mississippi. She was a huge influence on me as a cook, especially in her last years. I would try and help her prepare the big family meals at holidays. She was pretty specific in the kitchen. It had to be done her way. The apple blossoms are for my grandmother Elise, who lived in Paragould, Arkansas. She was the most unconditionally loving person I have ever met. She had a huge influence on my upbringing, as she would keep my brother and I on weekends when we were younger. There are some honeysuckle flowers and fireflies in the tattoo as well, which were staples in my backyard adventures as a kid. I know both of my grandmothers would be a little bit disappointed about my tattoos, but I think Matt did a great job on it, and they would at least find the beauty in it.

photo by Becca Bona

Monica Mylonas, with Mylo Coffee Co. 

I got my first tattoo at the end of the summer last year. I had toyed with the idea of getting one for years, but could never choose one image that meant more to me than any other image. I finally came to the realization that a tattoo does not need to be overtly meaningful, that I can appreciate it simply as a piece of artwork that represents my personal style. I have always had a deep love of naturalist illustration (think Audubon) as well as graphic pen-and-ink drawing (the inspiration for my amateur rendering of Hillcrest on the wall at Mylo). The supremely talented Adrian Berry of 7th Street gave me this beauty. I am daily mesmerized by the fine line work.

photo by Becca Bona

Monica Mylonas, with Mylo Coffee Co. 

I got my first tattoo at the end of the summer last year. I had toyed with the idea of getting one for years, but could never choose one image that meant more to me than any other image. I finally came to the realization that a tattoo does not need to be overtly meaningful, that I can appreciate it simply as a piece of artwork that represents my personal style. I have always had a deep love of naturalist illustration (think Audubon) as well as graphic pen-and-ink drawing (the inspiration for my amateur rendering of Hillcrest on the wall at Mylo). The supremely talented Adrian Berry of 7th Street gave me this beauty. I am daily mesmerized by the fine line work.

photo by Becca Bona

Monica Mylonas, with Mylo Coffee Co. 

My second piece is far more sentimental. My sisters were both in town for Christmas, a rarity these days. We decidedly somewhat spontaneously to get matching tattoos down at 7th Street. Once again, the choice was an aesthetic one. Matryoshka dolls seemed somehow to represent our bond, separated as we are by ten years apiece, yet still so similar in so many ways. David Steed did mine. I love to look down and think of my sisters, especially when we're apart.

photo by Becca Bona

Amanda Ivy, chef at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.

photo by Greg Henderson

Amanda Ivy, chef at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.

I have about 1/3 of my body tattooed, but mostly people notice my right arm. I like to think of that sleeve as my “before Arkansas” sleeve. Before I moved here, I had served in the Army as a medic and then later flew general aviation airplanes for a living. So that tattoo is a real mash-up of the things I loved about both. The pin-up on the upper half is sporting an outfit that was part of a “Donate Scrap Metal” ad from World War II, which is Easter egged my rank and patch in to. The banner on the bottom pays homage to a phrase my dad used to yell at us when we were bad. "Straighten up and fly right". I'm planning on making my left arm an all things food sleeve at some point.

photo by Greg Henderson

Sarah Matthews, sous chef at South on Main

photo by Becca Bona

Sarah Matthews, sous chef at South on Main

This is my favorite tattoo, I love the artwork and I also love the man that did it, my husband, Aron Matthews.

photo by Becca Bona

Loblolly Creamery Crew

photo by Becca Bona

Sally Mengel, owner of Loblolly Creamery

On my back, I have a tattoo of a little doodle of a chickadee balancing a cupcake with blue icing atop of its head. For years I had illustrator Kate Wilson's sketches of birds with food on my bulletin board. Happy little creatures content with a French fry or a piece of cake. They were silly reminders to hold on to the sweeter things in life. So, I decided to make one in a tattoo so that I can always carry that reminder with me.

photo by Becca Bona

Loblolly Creamery Crew

photo by Becca Bona
Loblolly Creamery Crew

photo by Becca Bona
Cash Ashley, chef at Lost Forty Brewing

photo by Becca Bona
Cash Ashley, chef at Lost Forty Brewing

photo by Becca Bona

Arturo Solis, chef at One Eleven, Capital Bar & Grill

I enjoy art very much and seek it out in everything I do. And tattoos are a way of keeping art nearby for inspiration for when I cook. The best tattoos are simple, just like great food.

photo by Becca Bona

Arturo Solis, chef at One Eleven, Capital Bar & Grill

photo by Becca Bona

Abbey Rolfe - General Manager, Heights Taco & Tamale Co.

I have always been drawn to food and kitchens. I got my degree in restaurant and hospitality management and have been managing restaurants for the last 11 years then went to Italy to study culinary arts and wine. So it seemed natural for me to do a kitchen centric tattoo. Hence the clip art 🙂

photo by Greg Henderson

Autumn Hall, co-owner of Pies B4 Guys

My tattoo is of a slice of cherry pie on my left arm. For one, it's my personal favorite of all the pies. It's also the quintessential diner pie. Caleb Pritchett formerly of Electric Heart and Roll & Tumble Press traded pies with me for the tattoo. Best deal ever. It marked a point in my life when I switched careers from graphic design to baking full-time.

photo by Greg Henderson

Autumn Hall, co-owner of Pies B4 Guys

photo by Greg Henderson

Michael Peace, owner of 109 & Co.

My right arm is pretty much covered in a number of tattoos that all flow together. They're all designs that my tattoo artist, David Steed at 7th Street Tattoo, came up with after he and I discussed what I had in mind, my style, and my thought process. To me, it reflects going with the flow of things, not exactly knowing what's next but moving forward anyways, and just beautiful connections of what wouldn't be that great on their own. It's hard to describe the type of design, but there's definitely some old Victorian influence with a modern twist.

photo by Greg Henderson

Gwen Jones, owner of Beast Food Truck

“LARD IS LOVE” started, originally, as a joke — I can't remember who with, though, it's such a long-running one (but I’m pretty sure it started with Mitchell Latture (Freckle Face Farms) and Kelly Carney (North Pulaski Farms). It's a familiar conversation with anyone who gets that look at the cooking fat labelled "LARD" on the truck. I trade butchering services for lard at Freckle Face and Falling Sky. For me, lard is at least part of what I love. That shit's magic.

photo by Greg Henderson

Gwen Jones, owner of Beast Food Truck

My entire left arm is childhood. Everything from Wind in the Willows to The Neverending Story. With my specialization in meat, when it came time for Green Eggs & Ham, I wanted to do something fun. So we did a pen-and-ink style riff off of Dr. Seuss with prosciutto & Aracauna eggs instead.

photo by Greg Henderson

Jennifer Armstrong - Director of Operations, Yellow Rocket Concepts

On my back shoulder I have a rainbow boat. Rewind three years ago and I'm dating this girl that lives in Fayetteville. We had been together for maybe three weeks when we decide to go get these MATCHING boat tattoos. There was this revolting inside joke between us that we had SO much in common and our relationship was SO very intense that we were "in the same boat" all the time. Hence the rainbow boats.

photo by Greg Henderson

Jennifer Armstrong - Director of Operations, Yellow Rocket Concepts

That relationship lasted like two weeks after I got the rainbow boat tattoo. So I'm stuck with this albeit cute rainbow boat on my shoulder. When I started dating Abbey she thought it was the funniest thing that I had this boat tattoo, so she starts getting me anything and everything boat she can find. I have boat t-shirts. Boat shoes. Boat necklaces. My son thinks I LOVE boats and draws me boat pictures.

So to spite her I got the huge ship on my arm. 🙂

photo by Greg Henderson

Bart Barlogie, business partner at Piro

photo by Becca Bona

Bart Barlogie, business partner at Piro

My tattoo is a skeleton girl based off the famous Mexican political cartoonist and engraver, Jose Guadalupe Posada. I got this tattoo roughly 4 years ago from Caleb Pritchett who then owned Electric Heart Tattoos. Ever since I was a young boy, I have been intrigued by this type/style of artwork. It was after a long night with friends that I woke up, walked to Caleb's shop and told him what I was thinking. He spent several hours drawing and creating this piece for me that I now have on my right arm. This was the most intensely long and painful of all my tattoos. Regardless of the 6 hours to complete it, I love the way it turned out. Tattoos for me reflect a period of time in my life. There are tattoos I have that I would never have gotten today. Trust me. However, I don't regret them because they remind me of where I was in my life both emotionally and spiritually.

photo by Becca Bona

Jack Sundell, co-owner of The Root

My tattoo of The Root's carrot logo inside the state of Arkansas was done by Katie McGowan of Black Cobra Tattoo Parlor in Sherwood in the spring of 2012.  It's on my left shoulder, and it's my only tattoo.  My wife and business partner, Corri Sundell, has a matching tattoo, and a couple of employees came with us and got tattoos of just the carrot.

At that time, The Root storefront had been open almost a year and we had been working on the project for three-and-a-half years before that.  So I remember thinking, "Even if the Root closed tomorrow, this would still be a major portion of my life that would be worthy of commemorating in some lasting way." In a lot of ways The Root was also the first thing I had ever truly done for myself, and I wanted to preserve that event as well.

The tattoo itself is our carrot logo inside a line drawing of Arkansas. It represents our love of and commitment to our home state, the fact that we're rooted here and nowhere else, and also the growing food community in Arkansas. Arkansans are lucky to have a state with a physical shape that lends itself to lots of uses--tattoos, potholders, cutting boards, t-shirts. I mean, what do they do in Delaware?

photo by Becca Bona

Dan Rogers, sous chef at The Southern Gourmasian

I currently have one culinary tattoo with many more planned. The tattoo is of the primal cuts of a pig. I got the tattoo while I was in culinary school to represent a huge change in my life. I worked an office job for about 10 years and was laid off in 2009. I decided to make the change and follow what I knew I loved, which was cooking. I enrolled in culinary school the spring of 2009 and finished in 2012.

photo by Greg Henderson

Craig Roe, owner of Baja Grill

My tattoo is symbolic of the passion I have for great food with a bit of quirkiness. The taco represents one of my favorite foods as well as my livelihood.

photo by Greg Henderson

Craig Roe, owner of Baja Grill

photo by Greg Henderson

Malissa Calaway - Bar Manager, Piro Brick Oven and Barroom 

photo by Becca Bona

Malissa Calaway - Bar Manager, Piro Brick Oven and Barroom 

I got my werewolf tattoo about a year ago in Dallas by Adrian Evans of Death Or Glory Studios. This tattoo was actually somewhat of a joke that had been going on for a couple of years. I had a conversation with musician Ryan Katner of the band Man Man about the almost epidemic of hot chicks getting tattoos of his face. After a few beverages I had decided I would join the club and get a cute, sweet, stylized tattoo of him boxing a werewolf and eating pizza, because that's what one does. A couple years later, I run into Ryan and the pressure is on. His doubt fueled my fire and I made the appointment. Adrian tweaked my vision a hair and presented me a sketch of this gnarly werewolf holding Ryan's bloody severed head and naturally I fell in love. It's weird but it's my favorite tattoo and probably always will be.

photo by Becca Bona

Travis McConnell - Owner, Butcher & Public

photo by Greg Henderson
Travis McConnell - Owner, Butcher & Public

The tattoo is the beginning of other food related tattoos that I'd like to gain. It’s a simple butcher’s cleaver on my left calf. Aaron Matthews from 7th St. is the artist. I have another out-of-state friend who’s done my others, but once we moved here, I found Aaron and we appropriately traded food for ink. My next goal is to get a carrot or another great vegetable on my right calf. Meat is my obvious focus now, but I love vegetables just as much. Especially seasonal local ones. So to sound like a cliche tattoo person, I need to balance it out with a veggie on the other leg. The cleaver represents my love of the skills and craft that makes butchering whole animals special. It’s a respect to the craft that brings the neighborhood and community great quality meats.

photo by Greg Henderson

Brandon Brown - Co-owner of Hillcrest Artisan Meats

I have lots of tattoos.  My two favorites are both of my daughters’ initials, because they are the meaning in life.

photo by Becca Bona

Brandon Brown - Co-owner of Hillcrest Artisan Meats

My Global knife tattoo is purely symbolic and one that reflects my profession and passion, butchery.

photo by Becca Bona

Jeffrey Owen - Chef at Ciao Baci

Most of my tattoos commemorate various stages of my career. I got my Morton Salt girl tattoo when I started at Ciao Baci.

photo by Becca Bona

Jeffrey Owen - Chef at Ciao Baci

 The bacon tattoo represents my time doing charcuterie at the Capital Hotel. I got my skull and crossbones to commemorate 10 years as a chef. 

photo by Becca Bona

Jeffrey Owen - Chef at Ciao Baci

The fried chicken tattoo also represents one of my favorite dishes we did at Ashley’s. I got the tattoo of a crawfish because I basically consider it to be my “spirit critter.”

photo by Becca Bona

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Industry Ink: Killer Tattoos From the Little Rock Food World