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Elisir's Pastry Chef Liz Barbato Shares Her 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/]

Elisir pastry chef Liz Barbato has a competition going with her two younger brothers. "Whenever one of us gets a tattoo, the other two have to go out within the same month and get more ink," she says. This friendly rivalry has resulted in a thorn-wrapped cross that consumes her upper back and a trio of black calla lilies strung across her chest.

Barbato got her first tattoo of a black rose when she was 16, simply because "my mother always told me that I would never make it to 16. I got this to prove that I'd made it." Mom had good reason to be worried. "I was always in trouble, I had many, many broken bones from playing sports, and I was in a few really bad car accidents," says Barbato. Her closest brush with death happened when she was only 12 years old. A friend was teaching her how to drive a stick shift. It was raining and Barbato lost control of the car, flipping it over. Stuck under the seatbelt, it took two people to break through the window and cut her out. After extricating her and pulling her to safety, the vehicle exploded.

When Barbato wasn't flirting with death and dismemberment, she was working on her family's lobster boat on Deer Isle off the coast of Maine. But she knew that wasn't going to be her career. "I've always loved cooking and wanted to be a chef," she says. One of her first big projects in the kitchen was making pancakes for the family. "I almost burned down the house and it tasted like crap," she says. "My stepfather was a good sport. He ate as much as he could and told me I did a good job. Then we went out and got McDonald’s afterwards."

—Nevin Martell

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