There was a point in his life where he thought he was going to quit cooking. Now, he’s the Brigaid chef at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School in New London, CT. But to better understand where he
is now, it’s important to go back to see how he got lost and then found himself.
Tyler Guerin, 24, was born in South Berwick, Maine. Tyler’s father, after working 20-plus years as a chef, decided to buy and take over a local restaurant, The Oar House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. From that point on, food became a constant in Tyler’s life.
At 10 years old, Tyler started helping out at the family restaurant, first by cleaning out the coolers. By the time he was 13, he was hosting the thousands of people who flocked to the New England waters in the summer. Then in his high school years, he, along with his friends, spent winters and summers cooking classic New England fare day in and day out.
After graduating high school and eight years working at the family restaurant, Tyler wanted a change. Knowing that he never enjoyed formal education, he packed his bags and spent a gap year in New Zealand to figure out what he wanted his next steps to be. During his trip, he joined a bus tour with 11 other people from all over the world. This curious bus tour became one of the defining experiences in Tyler’s life. Despite language and cultural barriers, Tyler found cooking to be the sure-fire way to connect with everyone. He became the chef who prepared the food for the entire trip, and it was at that point, he recognized both the power of food to connect people and his own knowledge of and skills in cooking. He set out then to make cooking his career.
After only a couple years in the restaurant industry, Tyler built up an impressive résumé working at some of the most popular restaurants in the northeast, including Arrows Restaurant in Maine, Earth at Hidden Pond, and Toro in Boston, MA.
He credits Justin Walker, now the executive chef at Earth at Hidden Pond, for a large part of his career development, showing him the wide range of things one could do with food and connecting him to the popular restaurant, Toro in Boston.
At 21, Tyler confidently set out to add to his culinary toolkit. He moved to San Francisco to do a trial at Chris Cosentino’s Cockscomb. Then, out of nowhere, he hit a wall. After years of success (which were by no means easy as Tyler recalls throwing up frequently before he went into work at Earth from nerves and stress), he figured that, in his own words, he “would be able to just do [his] thing.”
It was the first time in Tyler’s young cooking career when he felt that he just wasn’t good enough. He stopped cooking. He took the summer off and, instead, started working for a family friend’s fencing company.
As you might expect, this didn’t last long. After two months, he itched to get back into the kitchen. And this itch came with a newfound determination to become the best. That coupled with Tyler’s own desire to work in Copenhagen’s booming restaurant scene, he set his sights on Bror, a highly-regarded restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Six weeks after his first conversation with the restaurant, he was in Copenhagen and ready to work.
A highly intense kitchen environment, Bror became the perfect testing ground to see if Tyler had recovered from his previous struggle in San Francisco. And he did. He came to embrace challenges and adopted the attitude that he was not going to let anything stop him; instead, he would exhaust everything he had to succeed. It paid off. He was given more and more responsibility at the restaurant, and by the time he was set to return to the U.S., he was ready to take the next step.
During his time at Bror, Tyler had heard about Dan Giusti and Dan’s plans for after leaving Noma. And after finishing at Bror, Tyler sent Dan an email, not expecting a response. However, after several stages (restaurant term for internships), Tyler heard back from Dan and drove up to New London for a trial.
But, he didn’t get the job.
“I was devastated,” Tyler says. He knew he had the necessary cooking skills, but he also knew his age hurt him.
But unlike before, he didn’t give up. He took a job as a cook in September to work under chef Ryan Kennedy at New London High School. Looking back, Tyler says he “needed every single second [at the high school.]” He saw firsthand that school cooking was a whole different animal. Under Ryan, he learned about management and honed the skills to cook for 800 people in 90 minutes, which is the volume that the high school requires.
After two months as a cook, Tyler became the chef at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School. When asked about why he was so dead set on becoming a chef with Brigaid, he talked about how Brigaid strikes the perfect balance of ambitiously cooking good food, having a personal life, and having a real, positive impact on the community. To him, Brigaid epitomizes what cooking is all about: feeding people and forging connections through food.