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Bryan Voltaggio Shares His TSA-Provoking Tattoos

Welcome back to Ink Spotted, a feature in which Eater talks to DC's tattooed chefs and gets the stories behind their most intriguing ink.

[Photo: Bill Millios]

Going through airport security can be a stressful these days, especially if TSA agents constantly pepper you with questions. Volt chef-owner Bryan Voltaggio started getting a lot of checkpoint inquiries after he got a pig tattoo to commemorate the birth of his son, Thacher, who has born in the year of the pig. "My father was a Maryland state trooper until he retired, so I began to wonder whether the agents thought the pig was connected to the slang term for cops," says the chef. Eventually, he asked one officer, who confirmed his theory. Voltaggio was quick to dissuade him. "I told him, 'I have great respect for law enforcement; it's just a tribute to my boy,'" he says. "I'd never intentionally disrespect an agent like that, especially since my Dad would be pissed."

Voltaggio started getting animalistic tribute tats for his kids after he discovered that his first piece of a Chinese dragon serendipitously symbolized the year in which he was born. When his daughter, Piper, was born in 2011 – year of the hare – Voltaggio celebrated with a tattoo of rabbit. Though Urban Dictionary has some interesting definitions for the term rabbit, none of them should antagonize the TSA.

Airport authorities should get used to traveling chefs with a lot of ink, because it seems like everyone in the kitchen is a potential Ink Spotted candidate. Voltaggio has a couple of theories why more and more of his colleagues are getting tattoos. "It's showing respect to another art form," he says. "Plus, it used to be that chefs wore coats with full sleeves down to their wrists. But now jackets are shorter sleeved, so you can see the art. There are a lot of chefs who have been cooking for a lot longer than me that have tattoos that you didn't see until they finally put on a short sleeve shirt when the kitchen style changed."
—Nevin Martell

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