Edible Ink: Parkhurst Dining Chef Cory Hughes
1994 — the year Cory Hughes got his first tattoo and, coincidentally, his first job in a restaurant. He’s been in the kitchen every year since, “except when I was in the Marine Corps,” Hughes says, pausing for a moment. “But, then again, I did do some cooking then, too.”
Working his way up from a dishwasher at age 14 to his current position as a chef at Parkhurst Dining, Hughes has perfected his skills and collected almost 250 hours worth of tattoos. His go-to artist, Ben Merrell of Human Production in Bethel Park, keeps that ink fresh, currently adding more colorful pieces to match Hughes’ sunny personality.
Over the years, he’s met many colleagues who wear similar works of art. “Chefs having tattoos is a whole thing now,” Hughes says. “The restaurant industry is so accepting, so it’s almost like a counter culture. It used to be that if you were punk rock or in a band, you could get a job as a cook. Now, I’m seeing kids in culinary school getting tattoos because they think they have to.”
“It’s like my punk rock ‘20s and my food life combined as one symbiotic relationship,” Hughes says of the tattooed chef trend. “It’s accepted now, but it was cool to be a part of the struggle.”
I got my first tattoo at age 14. A girl named Alexis gave me an anarchy symbol with homemade ink and a guitar string.
I just got these peach blossoms on my neck. I want to add more pops of color.
My favorite tattoos are the Black Flag bars on my hands. They’re old and faded, but I love them. They remind me of where I came from. I also have a Day of the Dead chef that I like. I have a Marine Corps symbol on my heart.
CHOOSING A TATTOO:
I like to get an idea for a year before getting it tattooed. If I can’t keep it straight for a year, then it has no business being on my body. My tattoos really reflect my mood for that year. The tattoos I got at 21 aren’t what I’d choose at 35, but I don’t regret any of them.