Growing up in a rough part Oceanside, California, Luke Wessman had a hard road to travel to get where he’s at today. Years of hard work, and artistic talent, have built him and his “traditional gangster” style of tattooing quite a reputation in the tattoo and art communities from coast to coast. Now a fixture at Wooster Street Social Club in New York City, Luke stays humble and sticks to the work ethic that got him to where he is today.
Brynne Palmer- How long have you been tattooing, and how did you get into it?
Luke Wessman-I’ve been tattooing almost 15 years now. My older brother’s friend Jason was tattooing everybody in the neighborhood out of his home, and I started getting tattooed by him at 16. He eventually got a job at a newly opened tattoo shop in our city and it was there that I met some other artist and friends that eventually brought me into the life, forever changing it.
BP- What was your first tattoo, when did you get it and do you still have it?
LW- My first tattoo was “Wessman” in Old English across my shoulder blades 18 or so years ago, unfortunately it was covered years back when I started a full back piece. I say unfortunately because the older I get the more I cherish the old ones, but the memories are still there.
BP- What is your fondest food related memory?
LW-Getting the desserts at this homeless shelter we used to eat at as a kid “Brother Benos” That and the donut plate that was out before church started on sundays when I was little.
BP- Your career takes you all over the world, do you have any standout culinary experiences or funny stories from your travels?
LW- I was with some dear friends in Milano, Italy for a tattoo convention, we all went to eat at this little restaurant (Italian of course) and this rude server could not grasp that my friend Manako was vegan and what that meant, we literally almost got into a fist fight with this guy in this crowded restaurant because my friend Manako wanted to send back the cheese filled french onion soup. Another memorable food moment, and more positive, was watching my dear friend at the Aspen food and wine festival do sushi at a SWS party and later hearing Chef Nobu Matsuhisa say to him “I hope we can work together one day” which ment a lot to my friend, which means a lot to me.
BP- Now living in New York, what are a few of your favorite places to eat? Any good go to date spots?
LW- I have a few spots I frequent often, one is called ‘Sons Of Essex” the other is “Schiller’s Liquor Bar” both in the Lower East Side where I live. I get treated very well at both and only a very special lady will I bring to either.
BP- Are there any restaurants in your hometown you really look forward to when you get back?
LW- Yes, one of my oldest friends Rob Ruiz is head chef at a sushi spot called “Harney”, It’s the best sushi I have ever eaten, served by one of my dearest friends, in the city I grew up in, win win.
BP- Do you have any chef clients, and if so what have you tattooed on them?
LW- I do, I suppose the most notable are, my friends Rob Ruiz whom I have done a lot of work on, and Chef Rick Tramonto I did a big Hammer Stahl knife on his forearm. There is a cool video of me tattooing it on Rick on my site.
BP- Have you noticed a correlation between the tattoo and culinary industries?
LW- Oh yeah big time, it seems to go hand in hand. Most chefs I have come across have many tattoos, it seems to be a big part of the chef culture. A lot of passion and struggle in the kitchen. The average people have now idea how hard those guys work back there.
BP- What is your favorite thing to cook at home, and could you share the recipe with our readers?
LW- Well now being a bachelor these days, I’m not really cooking too much in my little NY kitchen, I think the most elaborate meal is like a peanut butter and jelly on a toasted bread, and a wide verity of cereals. For dessert I like to eat a Hershey’s chocolate bar with Nilla wafers and some milk.