Sleeve Tattoos and Sage Salmon Come Together in Knives & Ink

If you are a chef or author of food-related things, the International Association of Culinary Professionals is a pretty big deal. The organization as it is now is a 1990 merger between the International Association of Cooking Professionals (which has been around for 40 years) and the Food Marketing Communicators organization. It has both hosted conferences and given awards in a number of categories over the years. They have seven main categories of awards on various aspects of food—impact on community, cookbooks, food writing, and more. Within the cookbook awards, there are 16 categories. The awards for each were announced at their most recent conference. Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes), written by author Isaac Fitzgerald and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, recently won the IACP Award for Cookbook Design (other winners can be found here).

The jacket for Knives & Ink, which has the torso of a chef in a chef's jacket, apron, arms folded to show off tattoos, holding a knife, and the title for Knives & Ink

Knives & Ink jacket art. Bloomsbury USA

This is Fitzgerald and MacNaughton’s second book. Their first, Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them, also has a tattoo focus, which makes sense given Fitzgerald’s fascination with tattoos. For their second collaboration, they have highlighted the stories of nearly 70 chefs and their tattoos, and nearly a third include recipes. Fitzgerald is self-proclaimed to not be any good in the kitchen, which has fueled his fascination with the world of food. His preface is really a two-page introduction to this fascination, the link between chefs and tattoos, and how creative expression, whether in cooking, tattoo artistry, or the illustrations that McNaughton provides, are all essential.

The layout of the book is super fun. Many of the chefs have two pages dedicated to them: one for the artistic rendering of the tattoo and the chef and one for their name and story. The art of the tattoo is more than just the tattoo. McNaughton does a splendid job of including the tattoo, the specific body placement of the tattoo, and enough of the person to give some humanity, whether it’s the neck and face or their full back and neck; even if it’s the arm, she included the torso, as well. The tattoos have color, and the rest of the chef is a simple black outline. Even the lettering of the chef biographies looks handwritten and beautiful.

Full-back tattoo depicting a blue-and-red Japanese dragon, stylized with waves crashing over the shoulders.

Brian Grosz’s back tattoo. Bloomsbury USA

Those chefs who included a recipe obviously had more space devoted to their section. These are definitely not for vegans and many I would not recommend for vegetarians. Some, like Daniel Francis Tower’s Pork Head Rillette, would be pretty difficult to modify. Others, like the Roze Traore’s Brown-Butter Sage Salmon with Gemelli Pasta could be modified easily to be dairy-free and seitan or firm tofu could replace the salmon. Others are naturally vegetarian—mostly the desserts and spreads—but may need someone with more skill than I to convert it vegan.

Below-ear tattoo of a wide, curved sword wrapped by a green snake.

Timmy Malloy’s neck tattoo. Bloomsbury USA

With any cookbook I can obtain, I am always eager to try at least one or two recipes before I recommend it to anyone. This one I would recommend for anyone without a lot of food restrictions for two reasons: one, the stories are pretty cool, and two, the recipes are pretty quality. I like the layout of most of it, but you have to be comfortable not necessarily knowing exactly how long or how much of a particular ingredient(s) in every recipe. I made two recipes from the cookbook: Roze Traore’s Brown-Butter Sage Salmon with Gemelli Pasta and Travis Michael Weiss’s D.C. Mumbo Sauce.

The salmon and pasta one was modified to use Earth Balance Butter (dairy-free) and Jovial’s Gluten-Free Brown Rice Fusilli. This is a really subtle and fresh dish, but wouldn’t hurt from playing around if you find it too bland. I loved it but my partner thought it could have more flavor to it. The Mumbo sauce makes about four quarts, which we ended up splitting in half with my parents. It was great as a french fry dip, but then we also used it to make two different chicken dishes in a slow cooker. The first one we tried had apples, chicken breasts, raisins, and chickpeas, which soaked up a lot of the spice from the Sriracha. It was sweet and went really well with rice and steamed carrots and broccoli. The second, less sweet, was made with slow-cooked with chicken, mangoes, pears, cashews, and raisins. We plan on making another batch to try some vegan options to slow cook with, including some variations with fried tofu, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas, or with pineapples and coconut and another good vegan protein.

Illustrator Wendy MacNoughton standing in front of a table covered in sketchbooks and textbooks on illustration. Wendy is holding a pencil over an open sketchbook and smiling at the camera.

Knives & Ink illustrator Wendy MacNaughton. Bloomsbury USA

We’re looking forward to trying a few other recipes from here—anyone who likes to cook and would enjoy the personal stories should pick up this award-winning book.

A profile photo of the author, Insaac Fitzgerald, wearing a black chef's shirt and hat. He has a well-groomed goatee and a pin on his shirt that says "trashy." A hint of a tattoo can be seen on his forearm.

Knives & Ink author Isaac Fitzgerald. Bloomsbury USA

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