Whenever we put out a new Tattooed and Employed Story, we throw the word out that we'd love to hear from any readers/fans about their own Stories. Without hesitation, we were hit up by this awesome guy from Georgia that had quite a unique job title, The Painted Chef. We chatted, found out his real name, and decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to interview this dude. Read on to find out more about Travis!
My name is Travis Phillips, aka Shug, The Painted Chef. I've got over 180 hours of tattoos. I own a catering company, The Painted Chef. I've been featured on FrankenFood on Spike TV, Deep Fried Masters on the Discovery Chanel, South Magazine, and everyday life! I am also a full time employee with the largest producer of air cooled engines in the world. I am a graduate of Georgia Southern University with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management. I have 2 daughters (both college graduates)!
I’ve always enjoyed cooking for my family, and the crowds just kept getting larger. I would be asked to cook for a family of four or a group as large as fifty people. One day someone came up to me and said, “You know you could get paid for this, right?” Up until that point, I’d cook for a bottle of Maker’s Mark.
I like to experiment, but most of my menu has a basis in southern comfort food. I fry almost everything, which is where my main slogan comes from, Deep Fried & Double Wide. One of my specialties is a unique take on Shrimp n’ Grits. My version includes creamy garlic jalapeno grits topped with large shrimp & smoked sausage that has been married in a spicy cream sauce and finished off with diced tomatoes & chopped chives. Always served with sweet mini jalapeno corn muffins! You would also see things like low country boil, BBQ, fried chicken, apple coleslaw, potato salad (my version!), bread pudding (variety of different flavors) and fried Oreos… just to name a few.
I would say my inspiration comes from making people happy. I really enjoy watching people as they take that first bite of my food. I like watching the positive reactions. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told “Man, this is the best food ever!” Really? The BEST food? Don’t get me wrong. I’m flattered. I love doing this and hearing great things about my food. But it’s the best food you’ve ever had? I always reply with a nice “thank you” and go on my way. But what I’m actually thinking is “Where the hell have you been eating all your life?”
A little bit of both! I really like the American Traditional Style which covers most of my body. My left arm is a tribute to engines and motorcycles. I also like to let the artist pick out a lot of my designs. They know what goes with the themes best!
My tattoos have definitely affected my catering career in a positive way. It’s shaped the identity of the catering company.
I have a lot of different artists that I have collected from over the years. Most are from tattoo conventions…just to list a few, here's a who’s who among the American Traditional Genre…3 pieces from Timmy Tatt, chest piece & right sleeve from Ron Henry Wells, and then a collection from various artist throughout the country which includes Dean Williams, Chad Koeplinger, Ross Abbot, Zach Spurlock, Joe Tatum, Ross Craven, Taylor Elliot, Blake Meeks, etc.
Experimenting with food is a big hobby of mine. I like to see what goes together and what doesn’t. If I’m not in the kitchen, you can find me on my motorcycle or in the Jeep riding dirt roads. On weekends off, I like to go to different food destinations around the low-country area that are in driving distance to try new things.
Working on getting my logo trademarked is #1! I recently ordered small temporary tattoos with my logo. In the beginning, I ask the brides that I worked with to put the tattoos on and take pictures in their wedding dresses. Now, I have the brides and their maids put them on and take pictures. They’re so much fun! I have the BEST clients! I was recently asked to be a guest chef at a Farmer’s Market in Atlanta, Georgia. I will be conducting a 20-30 minute cooking demo using food items from the Farmer’s Market.
I cater a lot of weddings. With the weddings I play double duty and perform the ceremonies as well… Yes, I am an ordained minister! And yes, I get a lot of looks when the costume comes off and the catering attire goes on. Not from my clients, but from their guests! I’ve also done tailgating events, luncheons, parties, and even baby showers. You name it, and I’ve probably catered it at some point.
I would say the tailored menus I offer to my clients. I’ve been doing this a while. I know what I do well. If the menu my client suggested isn’t something I think would be the “best food ever” then I will recommend something I think would be better for the event, the budget, and the client. I’m always looking out for my client’s best interest. I’ve been told I’m very easy to work with.
A typical day includes my full time job at the manufacturing plant. After my day job, I’m either riding the motorcycle/Jeep, planning for the next catering event, or meeting with a clients.
I really like meeting new people, hanging out, talking. And drinking someone else’s beer is always a plus.
Just like everyone else that is heavily tattooed, I get asked a lot of questions about them. How many do you have? Doesn’t it hurt? What was your first tattoo? Are you a tattoo artist? Who do you use? Etc…. On the plus side, I get to meet a wide variety of people because of my ink. I am very approachable and able to have meaningful conversations with complete strangers! I have actually picked up catering jobs due to my appearance. I love my tattoos! I’ve even had a lot of people ask me to go with them to get first tattoos. I’ve held a lot of hands for some first time ink!
It’s a way to express myself. The clothing puts into words what I feel when I go out into public with the appearance I have. “Tattoo Is Not A Four Letter Word.” There’s nothing wrong with me because of my tattoos. “Tattooed and Employed.” I can enjoy my body art and still make a decent living in a real job like others do.
Travis has built something that he cares about and truly services himself, his family, and others. He is a great representation of the tattooed community that embraces their art and makes it an important part of not just their lives, but their careers. Thank you for telling your story Travis, and best of luck to you in the future.
If you're looking to be a part of the Tattooed and Employed Stories, we want to know! Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of your job title, skills/talents, and any photos you would like to submit of your tattoos and of you and your workplace. This is your chance to tell the world your story and we want to help!