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Eater Young Gun Semifinalists Reveal How They Stay Sharp in the Kitchen

The next guard talks staging, cooking down dry storage and switching up the menu.

Holdfast, Portland
Holdfast, Portland
Dina Avila

Earlier this month, Eater announced the 50 Young Guns semifinalists, a group of promising up-and-comers selected from hundreds of nominees. We surveyed each and every one of them, asking about their experience, the challenges they've faced, and what they hope to accomplish in the future. We're publishing a selection of their answers over the next month, and the winners will be announced on June 8.

This week, Eater asked them how they keep their skills sharp. What do they do to keep honing their craft? Semifinalist Tyler Bienvenu said, "read, watch, travel, stage," which summed up a lot of the answers. But here's what else they do to stay on top of their game...

My sous chefs and I are always trying to play around with new techniques and/or trying to apply certain techniques to something that you normally wouldn't think to. This way we're constantly learning how different ingredients may react in certain situations. Also, researching traditional Southern or Appalachian techniques and trying to refine them or make them practical for us in the restaurant keeps us busy.
— Brian Baxter, chef de cuisine, Husk Nashville, Nashville

Continuing to work barista shifts as much as I can. I research and read a lot of current blogs on coffee and industry things, but mostly touching base with my partners who are very involved in hands on coffee stuff (sourcing, roasting, and brewing our coffee). We do a lot of experimentation and quality control each week, and I learn a lot from them.
— Chrissy Durcak, founder, Dispatch Coffee, Montreal

I love to order whole work on my butcher skills

I love to order whole animals or at least large sections of the animal to work on my butcher skills. Focusing on solid vegetarian food is also a priority in keeping me challenged.
— Chris Parasiuk, chef, Restaurant Manitoba, Montreal

I try to stay inspired by going out to eat or making some time for myself with non-restaurant related things. Right now I'm reading Kim Gordon's memoir and I really value my commute time for reading to clear my head of what's to come for a full day's work.
— Angela Dimayuga, executive chef, Mission Chinese Food, New York

I draw on the knowledge of my employees a lot. They come from various backgrounds —some have more experience baking bread professionally than I do—so we all learn together by sharing ideas, experimenting with new techniques and taking lots of notes.
—Mary Ting Hyatt, baker/owner, Bagelsaurus, Cambridge

Always find time to get on the line every day

Cook every day, always find time to get on the line every day and taste everything that is being prepared. I try and learn something new every day no matter how small it might be. And of course read Eater to stay up on trends in the industry.
— Edward Scarpone, executive chef, DBGB, Washington DC

Angela Dimayuga and Edward Scarpone.

We do a new menu every week which keeps things constantly evolving. It can be a strain at times to create a new menu week in and week out, but that strain leads to a better end result. If I was making the exact same dishes every weekend I could see how things could slip and shortcuts could start being taken. By pushing to create new ideas all the time it keeps me expanding my knowledge.
— Joel Stocks, co-owner and co-chef, Holdfast, Portland

Whenever there is something that I feel that I need to work on, I create projects around just that. I learned as an intern that working in a kitchen is a continuous learning experience. I learned as a pastry cook that working hard means coming early and staying late — never missing a beat.
— Alex Levin, executive pastry chef, Osteria Morini, Washington, DC

Picking up an old cookbook is always a good way to get some inspiration. I also have a weird thing I do where I stop ordering produce and use up everything in the walk-in and dry storage. It is challenging and allows me to do a little spring cleaning and not be stuck throwing anything away that has been hiding in the corner of the walk-in.
Sara Hauman, chef, Huxley, San Francisco

Learning and teaching. Sharing voices and stories. Read like mad, and always ask why.
Caitlin Koether, sous chef, Bar Tartine, San Francisco