A few days before the Super Bowl kicks off, one of the culinary world’s biggest competitions, Bocuse d’Or, will take place in Lyons, France. When the action starts on January 29, many will be fixated on Richard Rosendale, the executive chef at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Greenbrier and Team USA representative at the event. We spoke to the culinary all-star to find out his game plan for the big event.
What does it mean for you to represent Team USA in the Bocuse d’Or?
It is, first and foremost, a huge honor and a chef’s dream to represent the country. But I also look at it as a great responsibility. Once you’re selected, you have made a commitment and it’s a tremendous obligation that requires a lot of discipline day in and day out. After I work a long day at the hotel, I begin my other day training for the competition. It’s both excitement blended with expectation because I know I have to do well because I’m representing many people that have put in a lot of hard work around me.
How many hours are you putting in training for the competition?
It’s like I have two jobs. I have my role here at The Greenbrier that’s rather vast. But the training typically starts off early in the year at three days a week, then it picks up to five days a week and then it goes full tilt—like right now, six days a week, in some capacity, I’m dedicating to training.
Did you build a kitchen at The Greenbrier like the one in France?
Yes. It is a replica to the one that exists in Lyon—right down to the vegetable peeler. Everything is the same. They provide you with specifications of everything you will be cooking with so we went out and got the identical pieces of equipment. But I’m so committed to eliminating all variables. It’s just like an Olympic athlete training on the track every day. Everything has to be the same.
Do you feel like there’s added pressure on you because the last two years’ Team USA chefs placed 6th and 11th?
I do think it’s been our country’s culture to rarely celebrate 8th or 5th and that’s unfortunate because the effort is to be commended, because whether you’re first or you’re 10th, it’s a lot of hard work. It takes a lot for someone to go and expose themselves on the world stage like that. I know the day I’m cooking there will be 100 cameras watching. But I think that I thrive in that kind of a situation. If I have any butterflies, they are completely overshadowed by my sheer excitement and eagerness to compete in this competition. I have been looking forward to this for a long, long time.
Can you tell us what you plan to prepare?
I grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the inspirations for my presentation actually comes from Frank Lloyd Wright and his famous house, Fallingwater. I always admired his style of architecture. It had clean lines and it was very refined. I approach a lot of the food for competition in that manner and design the food like an architect would. I’m inspired by a lot of classical preparation and classical flavors—but the food is very ambitious.
What has it been like training with Café Boulud executive chef Gavin Kaysen who represented Team USA in 2007, Alinea executive chef and owner Grant Achatz, and The Modern executive chef Gabriel Kreuther?
I feel very fortunate to have the resources that I do. But as a candidate you have to make sure your food and style comes through on that day because you’re the one that’s going to be cooking. If you’re so fickle in your style and philosophy on food, and you go out and work with Grant at Alinea or Gabriel at The Modern, and then you go to The French Laundry and try to cook that style of food, it’s like you don’t have any identity. So what I try to do is use them all as resources. I’ll let them taste something and I’ll ask them for their honest feedback. Together there’s such an incredible depth of talent there, it’s really a chef’s dream going through this opportunity.
Which country do you expect to be your biggest competition?
Historically speaking from the American perspective, everyone is. We have not been favored too well. It’s not a reflection of the talent; it’s a reflection of not having all of the ingredients that it takes to win. But the Norwegians, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, France—those teams have always been good.
What are the standards you’re judged against?
Taste is 60 of the 100 points. But if you have two items side by side and both taste very, very good, but one shows a higher degree of skill, I think that will favor better because it’s harder to do. It’s harder to introduce all of these levels of craftsmanship and make something look really beautiful and perfect, and make it taste really great. You’ve got to find a balance. But the guiding principle is it has to taste delicious.
What would it mean to you to win this competition?
I know that everyone would celebrate getting on the podium, but it’s in my nature to win everything I do. I want to win. That’s my goal. But I really try not to think about what the outcome is. I try to think about what it will take to create a clear path to the podium this year. And I’m doing everything in my eyes and my mind to do that. And that means pushing myself very, very hard. But I think my secret weapon is I really enjoy what I do.
Photo Courtesy of Bonjwing Lee