Knives and Needles

Where Chefs can talk tattoos and Tattooers can talk food

Mathew Clouser


Mathew Clouser

So Mathew Clouser is an old friend of mine and my God-brother. We met one summer when I was visiting his mothers in NYC. I think we were all about 17 or 18 at the time. It was a funny week doing the things kids do from going to a Toasters and Skatallites show at the Roseland Dancehall to huffing poppers while running around The Met all day (first and last time I ever did that, had the most gnarly headache afterwards!) to climbing up the fire escape to the top of the 18 story apartment building and then loosing Matt to the elevator shaft (surviving unscathed)! Good times and good memories!


Matt and I actually went to the same culinary school for a while, although not at the same time so our lives have sort of paralleled in the sense. He is now a truly impressive chef in Texas; you can currently find him slaving away at the famed Swfit’s Attic in Austin, TX. But I digress, here is a little more about Mathew on the subject of tattoos. Read on!


Mo:Tell me about yourself, your background.

Ma: I’m a crusty old pirate at heart, and food panderer by trade. I love wolves, and I collect dogs. I started cooking and getting tattooed right around the same time- first tattoo was actually on my 18th birthday. I’ve always had an artistic sensibility, and as such didn’t really do well in traditional academic realms… I wound up in culinary school at about 19 or 20 and haven’t looked back. I went to New England Culinary in Montpelier, VT, by the way. I’ve been living in Austin for the last 13 years, and have worked my way through some of the top kitchens in town, including a stint as C.D.C. at Uchi, under F&W Best New Chef, and James Beard winner Tyson Cole. I opened Swift’s Attic in early 2012 and was recently a nominee for F&W’s Peoples Best New Chef for the Southwest.

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Mo: What styles of tattoos are your favorites?

Ma: I love all tattoos, but I collect only black & grey.  My current favorite style oscillates from the old school Sailor tattoos to the more traditional Japanese style.

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Mo: Are there any specific artists you really want a tattoo from?

Ma: I really want more from my current artist, Jason Brooks, and I’ve actually coveted something from your hubby, Horitaka for a while. Something super spooky from Paul Booth wouldn’t suck either.

Mo: Thank you I will tell him, I’m sure he would love to do something on you! Do you own a tattoo magazine?

Ma: I do not.

post elevator shaft

post elevator shaft

Mo: What is your most-loved piece and why?

Ma: Definitely not my best, or most technical piece, though I love those intensely, but I have a super simple heart & banner tattoo that reads “Mom & Mom” that gets me a lot of laughs, and earned me big brownie points with the moms.

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Mo: I love your moms too!! What drew you to tattoos initially?

Ma: I think great tattoos have always given me a sense of Stendahl syndrome, and I’ve always been prone to the more subversive, occult, or esoteric sides of life… though one might argue now that tattoos aren’t really that much of a signifying trait of the outsider anymore.

on the roof

on the roof

Mo: Why do you think so many chefs are heavily tattooed?

Ma: I think we love beauty and pain more than most people, plus our work/art/craft is so temporal… really fleeting works, which last only a few minutes, it seems to me we appreciate the lasting effects of a tattoo. There is a really interesting juxtaposition between the two- very closely tied, and yet such polar opposites.

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Mo: That is a really good point and I couldn’t agree more! Have you ever been to a tattoo convention? Did you have fun?

Ma: I have not.

Mo: Do you have a tattoo experience that stands out for any reason? Funny/sentimental?

Ma: Nothing really comes to mind, other than the first one- by some gear head doing life in prison now- who thought it’d be funny to try and convince me he needed to “set” the tattoo by slapping it after he had finished his work. Always seek a reputable artist kids, always.

photo 2

Mo: That’s hilarious! What recipe would you suggest for our readers?

Ma: We do a simple Diver Scallop “tiradito” at Swift’s that’s been a huge success. Tiradito is a kind of Peruvian raw seafood dish, not dissimilar to a ceviche, that gets its name form the Spanish word “tirar,” or “to throw,’ so in essence it’s a simple something tossed together. Ours consists of Raw diver scallops, though divers aren’t necessary- just make sure whatever you use is of the freshest available- with Aji Amarillo pepper puree (Peruvian chili- hot) ten-tsuyu marinated cucumbers, and cucumber sorbet. We garnish it with sliced, iced scallions, and Hawaiian red salt.  See below for the recipes, and assembly instructions.

about to climb to the roof

about to climb to the roof

But first, a cooking tip from Mathew

Use recipes that have been tested, assemble all your ingredients before you start cooking, and try not to bite off more than you can chew, i.e. don’t try too many new methods or techniques at the same time- cooking is not a sprint. Also, keep in mind that less is often more, specifically in cooking- you can always add more of something, but you can’t take it out. Also, there is no love greater than that of meat’s love for salt- under seasoned meat is a disaster.

Thank you Mathew, check out Mathew’s delicious recipe!

Aji Amarillo Sauce

  1ea Can Aji Amarillo

1ea Shallot, sliced

1ea Garlic clove, sliced

1ea Marjoram sprig

1/2t Salt

1/4C White Wine

1/2C Water

1t Sugar

1T Calabrian oil

In a sauté pan, sweat off shallot, garlic, and Aji, Deglaze with white wine, reduce to au sec. Add in remainder of ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and puree in blender till smooth. Pass through chinois, and chill.

 Dashi Broth/Ten-Tsuyu 

1gal Cold Water

1ea Konbu Sheet

1c Bonito Flakes

Bring water, and Konbu to a boil, turn off heat, and add Bonito Flake. Steep for 20 minutes, then strain and chill.

Ten-tsuyu is 1 part dashi, one part tamari, one part sugar, one part unseasoned rice wine vinegar.

Cucumber Sorbet

8 cups cucumber juice

1 cup distilled vinegar

4.5 cups simple syrup

1 ½ tsp kosher salt.

Combine all ingredients and spin!

To assemble-

Roughly 2-2.5 ounces of thinly sliced scallops per person tossed with 1 ounce of sliced marinated cucumbers (marinated for 2 to 24 hours) and a small amount of salt.

Arrange the scallop/cucumber mix down the center of the plate and place one scoop of cucumber sorbet in the center. Spoon the sauce around the scallop perimeter and garnish with thinly sliced scallions that have been soaked in ice water for 1 hour- this makes them curly. Finish with the red salt.

That sound amazing, Mathew!  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and skills with us!

Get inspired to cook and get tattooed! Keep checking in with, you never know who you’ll see here next…. 

Photos compliment of Mathew Clouser

Tattoos done by Jason Brooks of Great wave Tattoo in Austin, except the “mom & mom” tatt- artist unknown.

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