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Body Heat

You gotta like a chef who’s willing to show a little leg. OK, so it actually took a little sweet-talking on my part to get Mitchell Rosenthal—one of the three Town Hall ( “jackasses” (as Mitch, his brother Steven Ronsenthal and Doug Washington describe themselves on their temporary website) who just opened Salt House to show me the tattoo covering his thigh of a samurai chef holding a battle ax dripping with blood that says “Bon Appetit.” He had it done in 91, at Goldfield’s ( on Broadway. Snaking down from his shoulder to his wrist is another done by Tim Lehi at Black Heart Tattoo ( of two roosters fighting. It incorporates a line from Muddy Waters: “Working on the hot line, baby, all day and night,” which is appropriate considering Mitch has been sweating over the stoves at Salt House ( since the day it opened.

Although executive chef Robert Levy (whose food I first enjoyed at Calistoga Ranch, the super schmancy wine country resort) started just before the restaurant opened, Mitch has continued to work the line, usually 12 plus–hour shifts. “At first I had to because there wasn’t enough staff,” he says. “Being 46 and cooking like that was pretty painful, but 5 weeks into it now, I kind of like it. I really believe in the act of cooking. When chefs stop, they lose their edge a little bit.”

As for the rather hard-core nature of his tattoos? Mitch, who comes across as a pretty mellow guy despite being a first degree Akido black belt, says, “I feel like I’ve always cooked sort of bold, not super subtle. I like things sort of lively.”