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Firefly Farms President Mike Koch Shares His Ink

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.

[Photos: Nevin Martell/]

"Tattoos are an addiction, because you're always thinking about the next one," says Firefly Farms president Mike Koch. The gourmet goat cheese gerent got his first taste of ink when he got a small salamander etched onto his right leg. "There’s a Hindu fable about two male gods that fall in love and turn themselves into salamanders so they can be together," he explains.

He couldn't stop with just one, so he moved on to cultivating a full sleeve on his left arm, which showcases earth, air, fire, and water. There are koi, a hummingbird, a goat, purple clematis flowers, and an ancient Native American symbol for Mother Earth.

"I end up marking significant events in my life with tattoos," he says. One tat of a primitive eye symbolizing the quest for enlightenment came about after a partner died "suddenly and dramatically." It was a turning point. "I left a teaching career to come back to DC to get a big corporate job," he says. "This was my nod to starting again, hopefully with wisdom and maturity."

Even when a memorial piece is emotionally painful, Koch doesn’t mind sitting for inking. "I actually enjoy the process," he says. "People always ask, 'Does it hurt?' To me, it's just an aggressive tickle." Which definitely makes him sound like an addict, but in a good way.

—Nevin Martell

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