Neda Mirkalai, a line and pastry cook at the Houston restaurant Reef, was raised in Alief, a town just west of the city, 21 years ago. Her mother emigrated to Texas from the Philippines; her father was born in Iran. And yet Mirkalai is as pure-blooded a Texan as they come. "I wanted the 'brand' of the state," she says of her tattoo, which a local tattoo artist named Corey Rogers custom-designed for her when she was 17. "And I liked the idea of keeping Texas close to my heart."