Prepping For an Opportunity of a Lifetime
Richard Rosendale, executive chef of the historic Greenbrier resort, is no stranger to cooking competitions as a crowned victor of more than 40. This January he will lead Team USA at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, a biannual international competition where the best of the best gather for an Olympic-esque culinary battle. We chat with Richard about his rigorous training and what it’s like having a superstar chef line-up for support.
AndrewZimmern.com: Explain the Bocuse d’Or. Why is it such an honor to lead Team USA?
Richard Rosendale: Well, the Bocuse d’Or is an international culinary competition of the highest level. Every two years 24 nations convene on Lyon for a rigorous two-day competition – each chef cooks for 5.5 hours straight. It’s an incredible atmosphere with thousands of spectators. The scene mimics that of a major sporting event. It’s truly an honor to represent the US in such an amazing competition. Whether you are an Olympic athlete, a politician, or a chef, you are an ambassador for our great country. This is a chef’s dream and it’s going to be an unmatched adrenaline rush.
AZ.com: We hear you’ve built an exact replica of the kitchen you’ll use in Lyon next January. Tell us about all the training you’ve gone through over the past few months.
RR: It has been more than a few months, more like years of closing in on this long time goal of mine. I have built a kitchen here at the Greenbrier. It exists behind a 25-ton blast door beneath the earth of what used to be a nuclear fallout shelter for Congress located here at the resort. It is like an underground city that now houses another U.S. secret, my training kitchen. My training is intense, to say the least. I essentially work two jobs, one overseeing the 13 kitchens here at the Greenbrier and the massive Food & Beverage Department, and the second job is being the U. S. candidate for the Bocuse d’Or. Both require considerable effort, and militant discipline applied to every aspect of my day. I train, I work, and I balance my personal life with my wife Laura and two little boys, Liam and Laurence. It requires a lot to keep it all in line.
AZ.com: You have been mentored by some of the most respected chefs in the country – Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse, Gavin Kaysen, Grant Achatz and Gabriel Kreuther. What have you learned from this impressive cast of teachers?
RR: Well, first of all, the opportunity to work with these esteemed chefs is just an opportunity of a lifetime. They easily make an all-star lineup. That being said, I don’t think of them as mentors or teachers, but rather, and I think they would agree, as support. At this stage of my career, and after participating in over 40 national and international culinary competitions, I know what to do to prepare for an event like this and I have a certain style of cooking. Having the depth of resources and knowledge now provided by these chefs is an amazing asset that complements by experience. There is a dynamic synergy between all of us that translates to fundraising efforts, comprehensive talks about strategy, and fine tuning components of the food. At the end of the day, I have to drive the direction of the food. I need to cook with soul and make sure my food is on the plate. The danger is that if you change your style so much, you don’t recognize your own food anymore, and that can impact your scores in Lyon.
AZ.com: You are the executive chef of The Greenbrier resort. Are you still directing the food and beverage program during all these preparations?
RR: I was hired at the Greenbrier three years ago as the Executive Chef and this year, in a year already saturated with responsibility, I was promoted to Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage. I am just like anyone else, that if I fall behind, I get stressed out, but what I think I do very well is “Not get behind.” I am relentless about planning and preparation and make no mistake, I am blessed to not only have a wonderful team with the Bocuse d’Or USA foundation, but here at the Greenbrier I also have an amazing team which has been with me for several years. I have working with a great commis (or assistant) for the competition, Corey Siegel, and he has risen to the occasion to whatever I ask of him. Working with me, I demand a lot. He has a bright future because of his positive attitude and incredible work ethic. Surrounding yourself with the best people is the first priority, and the second is relentless organization. I have a war room at the Greenbrier, that has a countdown clock to the event in Lyon, as well as a wall, filled with critical information right down to what we are doing every single day leading up to the Bocuse d’Or and the plane ride home. Nothing is left to chance.
AZ.com: Your classical training has taken you all over the world. What kind of influence has this had on your food?
RR: That’s true, I have very classical training, doing two three-year apprenticeships, and even starting off initially in pastries. Where I have arrived is a little different. My food starts off generally in the classical manner, but I love to interject modern thinking into my cooking. I also love the creative process, but I understand the importance of classical cooking. Two years ago I took the Certified Master Chef exam, essentially to train for the Bocuse d’Or. Within this rigorous eight-day cooking exam, you are tested in a myriad of classical techniques and must execute a high degree of craftsmanship. I believe these techniques are timeless. My fascination in classical cooking stems more from the first 130 pages or so of Escoffier, not the recipes, because at one point, that was science too. The beauty of making a consommé should never be dismissed, but built on with what we know about cooking today to arrive at a new place with food. As we set our sights on a new frontier of food, we should never forget its origins.
AZ.com: Any advice for future competitors?
RR: I suppose that as a chef who does cooking competitions, it’s a title much like that of “molecular gastronomy.” Call it what you want, but if you ask me, I’m just a chef. The means by which I have learned my craft has certainly taken me to very competitive environments. If I were to give advice to an aspiring chef who wants to compete, then I would say “treat every day like it’s a competition.” Here at the Greenbrier, I treat every day like it’s Lyon. I don’t apply standards differently based on the venue. I think what you get out of culinary competitions is certainly something that can enrich your skills and make you a better chef in countless ways. Cook that way every day. Push yourself and be passionate about your craft.
AZ.com: What’s in your fridge?
RR: Well, this time of year, I love to make soups – French onion, chicken noodle, and split pea, my favorite. I also like to makes lots of salads. One ingredient that I think home cooks should use more, adding depth of flavor to what they cook, is shallots. Shallots, unlike onions, “melt away” when they cook. They also are great minced up and tossed in salads and added to sautéed potatoes. Another favorite for this time of year is breaking out my pressure cooker and braising everything from short ribs to oxtails. I also have some of my friend’s black mustard, hands down the best I have every had. It is called Pig Cave Mustard and it rocks!
Born in Pennsylvania, Chef Rosendale’s classical training has taken him to Northern Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Norway and some of the finest kitchens in the United States. His traditional schooling included a rigorous six-year apprenticeship under several Certified Master Chefs as well as two years in pastries. Currently he is the Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage at prestigious resort, The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Chef Rosendale was the youngest member of ACF Culinary Team USA since the team’s inception, and was one of only five chefs who represented the United States in the 2004 International IKA Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany. The team ranked number one in the world for the hot kitchen, beating 32 countries. In 2006, Chef Rosendale was appointed Captain for the 2008 team that went on to earn three gold medals. Chef Rosendale has earned over 45 national and international medals in cooking competitions, including a very rare perfect score at the international level.
In 2010 Chef Rosendale attained the highest level of certification a chef can receive in the United States, the prestigious Certified Master Chef Title. This included a rigorous 130 hour cooking exam covering all aspects of cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. In January 2012, Chef Rosendale competed in and won the Bocuse d’Or USA Finals at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.