Images of Bocuse d’Or USA finalist Richard Rosendale from my book Knives at Dawn
Apologies for sneaking this in during the dwindling minutes of the week, but I just had a fun idea: With the Bocuse d’Or USA on tap for this Sunday, I thought it might be cool to have a look at one of the finalists, Richard Rosendale, who appeared in my book, Knives at Dawn, about the 2009 US squad. Rosendale didn’t win the team selection event, held at Orlando’s Epcot Center in 2008, that time out, but he came in second and was, by far, the candidate with the most competition experience. (I was also able to profile another of this year’s finalists, Danny Cerqueda, when he competed in the Bocuse d’Or USA in 2010; the organizers’ profiles of all four 2012 finalists here. My recent interview with 2013 team coach Gavin Kaysen here.)
OK, here you go, some quick-cut images of Rosendale, via excerpts from Knives:
Here he is discussing the value of culinary competition:
Richard Rosendale, then chef-owner of Rosendales (also in Columbus) and a member of two International Culinary Olympics teams, sees even more value in the competition experience. “In my opinion, one year on the Olympic team is the equivalent of five years in the industry,” he said. “In doing the team you have obligations to push yourself and research more and do more and learn more than what you normally would . . . I’ve competed in Germany three times, Luxembourg twice, Basel, Switzerland, twice, and all over the United States. Seeing these other countries and the food they’re putting up really makes you open up your mind and see food a little differently. There’s no boundaries.”
Some background on Rosendale, and his relationship with 2009 Team USA coach Roland Henin:
Henin also encouraged Richard Rosendale, chef-owner of Rosendales restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, to apply. Rosendale, who has a large, flat nose and dark black hair combed back into a near-pompadour, had more culinary competition experience, exponentially more, than the rest of the field combined: a member of two United States Culinary Olympic teams, Rosendale had participated in two three-year apprenticeship programs in his young career, including one at The Greenbrier, the fabled hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. [Toqueland note: Since the book’s publication, Rosendale has returned to The Greenbrier as executive chef.] As part of his education there, he was expected to do competition-like exercises after work such as mystery baskets (cooking spontaneously from an unannounced selection of ingredients) or putting up buffet platters. These sessions lasted until about two in the morning, and included a critique by his supervisors, who offered no leniency. “The expectation was perfection all the time,” said Rosendale.
Though the next installment of the Olympics was set to start on October 19, just a few weeks after the event in Orlando, Rosendale was attracted to the opportunity presented by the new Bocuse d’Or USA. “I really want to see an American win,” he said. “We have way too many talented chefs not to have placed any higher than we have.”
Rosendale could have been channeling Kaysen when he said that the reason the United States hadn’t done better in the past wasn’t the candidates, but the resources. “People underestimate how much it takes, not just the commitment from the candidate but financial resources. When you’re trying to figure out what one of your garnishes is going to be and trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for that via a fundraiser, [it’s] a very difficult thing to do. Plus your day-to-day job.”
How Rosendale prepared for Orlando in 2008, as contrasted with the preparation of Top Chef champ Hung Hyunh, who was a fellow competitor that year:
Asked what he had done to prepare a week before the competition in Orlando, Hyunh—who was working in the kosher restaurant Solo in midtown Manhattan while its owners got a new project together for him—cackled gleefully. “I’m not!” he said. “This is a kosher kitchen . . . I’m competing against Thomas Keller’s guy, Charlie Trotter’s guy. They have all the resources in the world. Here I am, I have two vinegars—red wine and rice wine vinegar—and some vegetable stock.” He shrugged. “It’s very hard.”
“I know what I’m going to do,” he explained. “But I haven’t had time to perfect it. I’m just going to bring ingredients down there . . . and I’m gonna go . . . I’m gonna cook, with proper techniques, and I’m going to hope it tastes good. I don’t know if it’ll be the most perfected dish of my career— definitely not I would say—but given the circumstances I’m in now and given what I can do and get out of it, I think it’s going to be excellent.”
“I cook best under pressure,” he said, snapping his fingers. “And at the moment. Shit’s gonna go down. Things are gonna burn. Things are gonna break. I’m gonna go with the flow, and do what I do best. Cook!”
Clearly, this was not the ideal preparation, but in many ways, Hyunh’s attitude exemplified the ideal of culinary competitions: He embraced the experience.
By the week before the competition, Richard Rosendale, who had been practicing overnight alongside Seth Warren, a string bean of a cook who worked for him at Rosendales, between overseeing the build-out of a new restaurant and trips to Rye, New York, to train for the Olympics, had stopped rehearsing.
“All of the hard work should have already taken place,” he said. “Right now, as we get ready for next week, it’s a lot of packing and going through pack lists, making sure shipping addresses match up, all those little things.”
Did Rosendale feel like the favorite going into Orlando? “Absolutely not. I know . . . from competing over the years, you can never underestimate any of your competition . . . I hope that I’ll win, but I also know there’s some very talented people that I’m going against. . . . It’s any given Sunday. Anything, and I mean anything can happen that can really just throw your game in that five-hour period. The Olympics is a perfect example of that. Four years of preparation comes down to spilling a sauce, or scorching something, or overcooking venison loins.”
Rosendale took about twelve hours to pack his toolbox, which was about the size of a chest freezer, in the most efficient way, and the tools and equipment would be set up very precisely according to when and where he’d need them in the kitchen in Orlando, all with an eye toward maximizing time.
“Every second counts,” he said. “If you go to reach for something and you bring your hand back without something in it . . . you lose precious seconds . . . you add that up and by the end of the competition you have lost five or ten minutes . . . that might not seem like much, but if that’s your window [to present your platter] …
“Packing is huge.”
Rosendale contrasted with Kevin Sbraga, who would go on to win Season 7 of Top Chef a few years later:
Three thunderclaps, in quick succession, rang out in the lobby, shattering the calm. It was Sbraga, smacking his hands together violently, then plunging them deep into the pockets of his sweatshirt. His eyes were squeezed shut, and he had earphones in, flooding his cranium with the hip-hop group Wu‑Tang Clan’s greatest hits. Sbraga’s high-school wrestling team used to spark up the CD on a boom box before meets, but it was a strangely appropriate selection for this day as well; just as many rap and hip-hop songs are about the rhyming prowess of the singer, cooking competitions—certainly one with a visual component like the Bocuse d’Or—are about the chef ’s showing off his skills, making lyrics like “I be tossin’, enforcin’, my style is awesome,” the perfect underscoring of what was about to go down at the World Showplace. As others watched Sbraga, he again yanked his arms free of the sweatshirt and clapped his hands loudly, looking fierce, ready to rumble.
Just a few feet away stood Richard Rosendale. His overnight preparation was different from Sbraga’s: after touring their kitchen the day before, he and Warren convened in Rosendale’s hotel room. Working off a digital photo he’d snapped at the Showplace, Rosendale sketched out how they were going to rearrange the equipment to create a more optimal layout. (He’d also taken the step of speaking to one of the electricians to be sure he wouldn’t trip a circuit breaker and to see if there’d be enough cable, although he’d brought plenty of heavy-duty extension cords along, just in case.) Then Rosendale quizzed his assistant, quick-firing questions about the sequence of tasks he had to execute over the five-and-a-half-hour battle. If Rosendale noticed Sbraga’s theatrics, he didn’t let on. And even if he had noticed them, they would not have made an impact. Rosendale was in familiar territory, and his philosophy was that it’s all about what you do in your own kitchen that wins the day. Any energy directed outside those four walls was wasted.
Judges’ perceptions of Rosendale during the competition:
Judges, in their whites, began filing in around nine o’clock. With coffee and Danishes in hand, they strolled around the kitchen, watching their young colleagues toil, often admiringly so. Georges Perrier took note of
Rosendale’s technique of soaking the cod for twenty minutes in cold salted water, which would cause the notoriously watery fish to firm up, making it easier to manipulate. “Very smart,” enthused Perrier.
As 10:00 a.m. approached, all of the kitchens were in full swing, with proteins being boned, liquids being stirred, vegetables being chopped, but to what end nobody knew. In this regard, the Bocuse d’Or resembles the American version of the television show Iron Chef in which narrator Alton Brown can often be heard attempting to deduce what the two competing teams are preparing, but usually fails to put it all together until the final minutes. So it is with the Bocuse d’Or. Through much of the five and a half hours, the chefs and commis are creating pieces for a puzzle known only to them. The end result isn’t clear to the audience until the cooks are barreling down the homestretch.
And his moment of truth:
Rosendale put the platter in the window. Titled “Modern Cod and Seafood Preparations,” it was a quintessential competition display with lots of layers and work on it (more than thirty individual recipes had gone into its production): the centerpiece was an imposing cylinder of gently cooked cod wrapped in a lobster coral mousse flecked with bits of dill and saffron; behind the cod, arranged along the short rear side of the triangle were a half-dozen scallop croquettes, a saddle of fern-colored celery gelée flopped over their centers. In formation along one long edge were blue prawn timbales topped with cabbage and, opposite them, charlottes of white asparagus velouté ringed with alternating segments of green and white asparagus. All was accompanied by a prawn Américaine sauce.
I’ll leave it there, except to say that I can’t wait to see what all the finalists cook up this weekend. I’ll be live Tweeting from on-site. See you all then!
All passages from Knives at Dawn © 2009 by Andrew Friedman, used by permission from Free Press/Simon & Schuster.