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Industry Ink: Hell’s Kitchen’s Kris Ransom

Hell’s Kitchen’s HR Manager Kris Ransom

You’ve all heard the saying: Home is where the heart is, and in Kris Ransom’s case, he’s wearing his home and thus his heart on his sleeve. Well, it’s not exactly a sleeve yet. “I’d like to do a whole sleeve but I’m married to someone who doesn’t see the value in (spending money on) tattoos,” the HR manager for Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis says.

So for now he has to be content with a good start on a sleeve. Years before ink touched his skin, Ransom had the images for his tattoo collage planned. He started a pictorial file of what he wanted to say, he just wasn’t sure how to arrange the images. Fortunately, he trusted his tattoo artist, Nik Lensing, who took a methodical approach to designing Ransom’s upper arm.

The stylized owl, which was first, is a composite of three different pictures of owls Ransom had collected. The significance, he says, is an owl is symbolic of wisdom and a thoughtful approach—something he strives for.

Currently his “upper sleeve” is a monument to his childhood home. “The whole thing is southern Kansas where I grew up,” he says. Below a vivid sunset—the likes of which only Kansas can produce—is a tiny barn and grain silo amid rolling hills and a giant cottonwood tree. Ransom didn’t grow up on a farm, but he says farms surrounded their house. A galloping horse is reminiscent of his rodeo days where he competed in roping events throughout high school and the first two years of college. Horses were also his solace after school—along with his piano—and remain a symbol of freedom. 

The large sunflower is a reminder of the oversized flowers his mother planted in their garden, which provided better memories than it did sunflower seeds. The butterfly was a suggestion by the tattoo artist as a finishing touch.

“It’s beautiful artwork that I get to wear,” Ransom says. And it’s a montage of his favorite place in the world. “At some point my parents will sell the house,” he says and this tribute to home and the horses and sunsets which were his safety net growing up will be the only tangible memory left.

A single tattoo on his left arm, which is less nostalgic and more inspirational, fills in the missing piece: “Overcome.” Crowned by a bird and written in a font compiled from three suggested scripts, the word is a reminder of how far he has come.

Ransom says he grew up in denial of who he is, which in a small town in Kansas was lonely and a bit scary. He didn’t come out until he was in his early 20s. The tattoo is a reminder that “I came through bad stuff and I can do it again,” he explains.

There’s a spot on his right upper arm where he’s planning some day to tuck a picture of an old decrepit windmill, and if he ever decides to invest in the rest of the sleeve, he envisions water and grasses, maybe something along the lines of life and death. 

His life journey is why he likes human resources so much. It’s helping people, but it’s also being part of a team. When the Final Four crowds slammed the restaurant a couple of months ago, Ransom finished payroll and then came downstairs to help slice 30 pounds of potatoes for house-made potato chips and washed dishes until they were out of the weeds. 

Ransom says his tattoos are by no means the most impressive at a colorful place like Hell’s Kitchen. But this is one time when story trumps art. 

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