T.J. Steele has more tattoos than he can count
T.J. Steele is an extreme dude. Splitting his time between Oaxaca City and Brooklyn for the past 15 years, the chef has cultivated a deep passion for tortillas and the things that go inside them. While his new Oaxacan-inspired restaurant in Brooklyn, Claro, doesn’t always have tacos on the menu, Steele always has them on his body. The chef has more tattoos than he can count, and a magnificent amount of them pay homage to tacos.
"I love my taco tattoos," says Steele, who also founded the mezcal company El Buho. "I started getting them when I moved to Mexco." On the inside of his right hand, the word "taco" is written; on the inside of his left, "masa." His entire left foot is covered with an intricate portrait of a woman carrying a tray of tacos, and his left leg pays tribute to a god of corn. Another Mexican god of corn covers the entirety of his right leg. For his next tattoo, he wants to get a flying taco, but there isn't much blank skin left on his body.
"Now it's kind of funny because I see other taco tattoos popping up on Instagram; it seems to be becoming more popular," he says. "Or maybe it's just social media, which makes it easier for you to see them."
Steele's all-time favorite taco is a two-way tie between a whole pig taco, where the tortilla is stuffed with chopped-up skin, meat and fat, and a beef head taco, both served near his home in Oaxaca City. In his view, the corn that makes up the tortilla is the taco's most essential component, which is why so many of his tattoos pay tribute to masa, or corn flour.
"I love tattoos and tacos," he concludes. "I definitely plan on getting many more."
This story originally appeared on Foodandwine.com.