On Monday evening, the University of Louisville Kentucky Author Forum welcomes author Colson Whitehead to talk about his novel “The Underground Railroad,” winner of the 2016 National Book Award.
Whitehead’s onstage interviewer is Isaac Fitzgerald, books editor at BuzzFeed and a writer himself.
I spoke with Fitzgerald recently about his most recent book, “Knives and Ink,” about chefs and their tattoos, and about how he prepares for a live, onstage interview with an author he admires.
Listen to the interview in the player above.
On the idea behind his new book:
“We tracked down chefs with tattoos, and I would basically take photos of their tattoos and themselves and record the stories behind their tattoos, which of course run the whole gamut, all the reasons people get tattoos: They can be heartfelt memorials, friendship tattoos all the way to very funny and silly reasons.
“And I would take these photos and then I would edit the stories, and I’d give the photos to Wendy MacNaughton, who’s this incredible illustrator. And so in the back of the book we list all the tattoo artists. But basically Wendy does sketches, so it’s kind of an homage. It’s her art representing the tattoo artists’ art. And we also convey the chef’s story.”
Why do chefs tend to have tattoos?
“Chefs themselves are artists. I see a lot of the tattoos as almost a dedication to their craft.
“I guess there was a period of time where if you got tattooed on certain parts of your body, it was your way of saying ‘I’m never going to work in a corporate job, I’m not going to do a particular line of work.’ And I think for a lot of chefs, it’s almost like a commitment to their craft and their art.
“You work in the back of the house. What represents you is the food you make. Something is freeing about that, right? They don’t have to worry about walking in and doing a job interview. The thing that’s going to matter the most for anyone that hires them is how good their art is, how good their food is.”