Five Minutes With...

Richard Rosendale, Bocuse d'or USA winner

Richard Rosendale (photos by Bonjwing Lee)

Richard Rosendale, executive chef of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., honed his competitive cooking skills through more than 40 national and international cooking competitions before winning the Bocuse d’Or USA competition last Sunday. He will spend the next year rehearsing his competition plates with the coach Gavin Kaysen of Café Boulud before heading to Lyon in 2013 to compete against the best in the world. We caught up with him shortly after his win.

Cooking competitions aren’t as popular in the U.S. as they are elsewhere. What got you interested in competing?

I was exposed to competition culture very early on, with mystery baskets in culinary school and at my apprenticeship at the Greenbrier. It’s a huge part of our training here. The Greenbrier has had an apprenticeship program since 1957; it’s the oldest in the U.S. It was created to train American-born chefs as they would learn in European kitchens.

I started competing in 1999, when I graduated from the Greenbrier apprentice program. We’ve had a member on the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team ever since its inception. I was a member of the team in 2004, and team captain in 2008. And I took the Certified Master Chef exam last year.

All those experiences were to me with [Bocuse] in mind; it’s been a long-time goal of mine. That is the pinnacle of cooking competitions. All the grueling experiences I’ve had over the years will come into play.

Why do you think cooking competitions are not as popular among American chefs?

Here, people think about television cooking competitions first, but if you’re a young culinarian, a cooking competition is an excellent way to get exposure. I’ve found a great benefit to competing. It’s so much more about the experience. So many things I did in competitions were applicable to my day-to-day work: organizing, multitasking, having an eye for detail. Plus the adrenaline and excitement it builds.

One of the challenges with Bocuse was that over the years, it wasn’t able to bring the kind of results like “Top Chef.” But if an American can do well and make the podium, it will be great for American viewers. It’s part of our culture – we want to compete. If an American can place on the podium for the first time ever, the media attention will be big. You’ll see the same kind of influx of attention and people wanting to do this.

How do you feel about your chances going to the international competition?

Bocuse d’Or is an extremely difficult competition. Chefs from notable restaurants haven’t placed, and that can be intimidating. As executive chef at the Greenbrier, I oversee 13 different menus and 150 cooks on the brigade. My job today is no less busy than when I owned a restaurant. Now I have the right blend of youth, knowledge and experience. Ten years ago, I would have had to practice in order to refine them. Now I’ve gone through more than 40 national and international cooking competitions. I’ve opened over a dozen restaurants. I have a pretty broad range of experience to draw from. The difference for me is that I’ve been on this journey for 10 years. I’ve been paving the foundation for a long time. I worked very meticulously and disciplined. That’s not something you can do in the course of a year.

I’ve been fortunate in my career, but over the course of 24 hours last weekend my life has changed. One of the top 10 trends on Twitter on Sunday was Bocuse d’Or. I’m excited for the future and for the ride – what’s to come.

How will you prepare for 2013?

One thing that is pretty exciting is that at the Greenbrier we have an underground bunker that was built for members of Congress a long time ago in case of nuclear war. Within the bunker is a kitchen that has been dormant for some time; we just use it on tours and for cooking classes.

I am going to build a kitchen identical to what we’ll find in Lyon in the bunker. It will be inch by inch exactly what you’ll see in Lyon. So after work, and on my days off, I’ll be in there.

Also, I’ll be going to The French Laundry and Alinea to work with Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz. And I’ll do several stages in New York; I’ll be working with Gavin Kaysen a lot. We’ll have official practice runs at French Laundry and invite people to come for a tasting. Who would not be excited about seeing that? 

I’m not just going to Lyon to compete – I want to go and break the paradigm about what the public sees. I’m part of the process; I’m very humble to make my contribution to Bocuse. It furthers American cuisine.

[No Subject]
Well spoken Chef. Godspeed my friend...

2/14/2012 2:32 PM Posted By: ian ramirez
[No Subject]
Chef with your strength and vision you'll be able to win this one. Good Luck and have a great time

2/14/2012 2:28 PM Posted By: Alan McDonald
[No Subject]
Good luck to Rich and bring the trophy home...

2/6/2012 4:20 PM Posted By: Carlos Addarich
striving for perfection
Chef, your comments, your drive, and your vision are inspiring. May God give you strength

2/3/2012 10:03 PM Posted By: Mike Whitesides
Congratulations Chef Rosendale! Sounds like a long journey could be coming to fulfillment. Good Luck!

2/3/2012 12:43 PM Posted By: bob richards

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