The culinary field is one of the oldest on earth—after all, since mankind has existed, we have been eating—yet it is still ever-evolving. One of the major ways chefs keep their skills knife-sharp is by working with other culinary minds, teaching and learning from them.
Chef Derek Emerson of Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St. 601-982-2633) and Local 463 (121A Colony Crossing, Madison, 601-707-7684) is a prime example. He travels all over the country cooking with other chefs at events and fundraisers, picking up a trick or two in every city.
• Los Angeles, Calif.: Chef Neal Fraser, Grace and BLD—Emerson grew up with Chef Neal Fraser, who owns two L.A. restaurants, Grace and BLD (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner).
• Albuquerque, N.M.: Chef Neal Fraser and wine maker Jim Clendenen from Au Bon Climat—Emerson helped host a gourmet wine dinner with Fraser and Clendenen.
• Austin, Texas: Chef Harold Marmulstein—Emerson worked with Marmulstein in Atlanta. The chef now co-owns the Salty Sow in Austin.
• Cleveland, Miss: Chef Jon Currence and Chef David Cruz—Emerson threw a dinner with Currance, Cruz and others from the state.
• New Orleans, La.: "Wild Abundance" cookbook—Emerson, along with chefs such as Jon Currence, John Besh, Karen Carrier, Kelly English and Lee Richardson, hosted a cookbook launch.
• Memphis, Tenn: Chef Kelly English—Emerson worked with English and other chefs from all over the South for a fundraiser for the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
• Birmingham, Ala.: Chef Chris Hastings—Hastings owns the Hot and Hot Fish Club and won a James Beard award this year.
• Atlanta, Ga.: Chef Kevin Rathbun—Emerson previously worked for Rathbun, who has three restaurants with a fourth on the way, and has been on "Iron Chef America."
• Miami, Fla.: South Beach Wine & Food Festival—Emerson worked with Chef Fraser at the festival.
• Washington, D.C.: Heart's Delight benefit—Emerson cooked with several chefs from across the country at the benefit.
• New York City, NY: International Chefs Congress—Emerson regularly visits the ICC to hang out with chefs from around the country.
Chef Emerson recommends:
"99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Going to Culinary School," by Regina Varolli (99 Series, 2012, $12.97).