In today’s episode, we speak with our guest Richard Rosendale, an award-winning certified Master Chef, chief creator of the Rosendale Collective, and a Bocuse d’Or top-ten finalist.
From winning over 20 world culinary Olympic medals and cooking in some of the finest kitchens around the globe, Rich shares how he intentionally balances his interests and selects projects that make him a better chef, leader, entrepreneur, and person.
Listen as Rich talks about being the youngest executive chef in the history of Greenbrier resort, launching the 44-acre Greenbrier Farm, following your curiosity, and the emergence of “a new breed of American chefs.”
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Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode, I’m speaking with Rich Rosendale, an award-winning Certified Master Chef, and the chief creator of the Rosendale Collective. Chef Rich is a Bocuse d’Or top third finisher, and then went on to be one of the coaches for the team that eventually made it to the podium in Lyon, France. He has also won over 20 World Culinary Olympics gold members, and was the youngest member appointed to the American Culinary Federation team.
Chef Rich is a classically trained international chef who has cooked in some of the finest kitchens around the globe. As the former youngest executive chef in the history of the infamous Greenbrier Resort, Chef Rich opened five new restaurants and launched the 44-acre Greenbrier Farm.
Join me today as I chat with Chef Rosendale about his apprenticing for six Certified Master Chefs and becoming one himself; the Bocuse d’Or, and what it means to be a new breed of American chefs.
And there he is. I’m exhausted, Chef! I’m exhausted on the intro. How are you?
Richard Rosendale: I’m great, Kirk. Thank you. That was a very, very nice introduction. I appreciate that.
Kirk Bachmann: That’s an amazing body of work. We’re going to dive into all of that. I’m so appreciative of your time. I know how busy you are. This is going to be fun.
Tell me about the set. You are as prepared for a chat as anyone I’ve ever seen.
Richard Rosendale: We’re here at our headquarters in Leesburg, Virginia. I have the RC Culinary Lab, which is the headquarters for Rosendale Collective and our offices. We also have Forklift, our events venue, here. We also have Roots. During the pandemic, we started doing a lot more Zoom calls, so we started investing more in better audio, visual, and sound panels and all that good stuff, like everyone else.
Kirk Bachmann: Was that serendipitous, or did you get into the pandemic and think, “Wow! I need to continue to reach people, and we need to do something different?”
Richard Rosendale: I think, even when I’m traveling, I always have my head on a swivel. I’m always paying attention to the news cycle, things that I see coming. I’m not one to stand still. I’m always looking for opportunities. They are not necessarily always business opportunities. Sometimes they’re just ways to make things better for us, for our team, for my family. I think that was part of it. Everyone during the pandemic had to adapt and evolve.
Kirk Bachmann: Pivoting was so important. Great to see.
So many questions and topics to chat about. The first thing that comes to mind, quite honestly, is really around how absolutely busy you are. Great social media presence, consulting work, podcast, Rosendale Collective, Recipe Rehab, Rosendale Online – I’m a subscriber myself – your family, speaking engagements. We’ll get to all of that in a bit. The question really is, how much fun are you having right now?
Richard Rosendale: When I left the Greenbrier, a lot of people were surprised because you look at that as the pinnacle of one’s career. Ultimately, I wasn’t really having fun. Now, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I love creativity. I love innovation. I like to work with passionate people. Sometimes if you can’t find that, there is the opportunity to try to create it yourself. I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing for the last several years.
Kirk Bachmann: That’s brilliant. Great advice for our listeners, many of whom are students.
Set the pace for today. Your intro on Rosendale Online is, and I quote, “You go in-depth on why you do things the way you do, not just how you do it.” It’s clear that branding is powerful. We’ll talk about that in a minute. Why is your approach and depth so important? Is it about protecting the brand? Or as a Certified Master Chef, is it just the right way to do things?
Richard Rosendale: I think we always really try to go in deep and explain the why of what we do. I think that people learn better whenever they’re really immersed in what it is that we’re teaching. Also, I go back to our tagline, “Food, Inspiration, Adventure.” Everything we do is culinary related. It’s going to be inspiring. We’re always looking for new adventures. That means in learning, we’re always open to new ways to do things. I feel like in teaching, if I really can connect with somebody and really show them the technique, not just, “Hey! Here. Follow this recipe,” in a lot of ways, they’re inspired. They can walk away feeling like they really understand the subject matter. That’s why we go into such great depth and detail and rely so heavily on recipes and techniques and documenting those, because I feel like that’s really how you truly learn.
Kirk Bachmann: I love that. Spoken like a true teacher. I love the term “inspiration” versus “motivation.” Two different things. Inspiration is not pushing someone up the hill, it’s getting them to join your cause.
Let’s talk a little bit about you and the early days. You’re a very distinguished chef and person with many accolades. I truly have enjoyed following your career for many years now, mostly through Chef Ed and Ron DeSantis, who speak so highly of you. Both have been on the show, by the way.
Having won World Culinary Olympics, being instrumental in the USA success at Bocuse d’Or, awarded the Presidential Medallion, Chef of the Year – that’s a career for several people, not just one person. I’d love to go back a few years of what your inspiration was to cook, to get behind the stove? Did that come from your upbringing, your family, Grandma? Was food really important in the Rosendale household?
Richard Rosendale: First of all, early on, I loved eating. I loved food. I had an Italian and German background. I grew up eating wonderful Italian food. My wife, who I met in seventh grade, also had Italian roots. I grew up loving food.
I was like a lot of kids where I was intimidated with “What was I going to do for the rest of my life?” I had no idea. I wasn’t really very good in school. I got into a lot of trouble. I was a real handful for my mom. My dad left when we were five years old. The family separated. Our house had burned down on Christmas Day, and my mom kind of picked up the family, which was me and my sister, and moved us to Uniontown, Pennsylvania. We started over. I remember a lot of the people in the neighborhood and from her work where she was a teacher, they donated a car for us to drive, and clothes, and all those things. Early on, that instilled a humble appreciation for people and what they give you. I think that and my mom being a great mentor shaped who I was.
Really, the cooking part was organic. I happened to stumble into taking a home economics class. There was an outlet to be creative. I did a cake decorating contest. It really was a spark that made me start to think, “Wow! Maybe cooking could be a career path.” As we got closer, I got a job working in a restaurant. I had an incredible work ethic. Whatever I did, I went at it at 110 percent. I was very aggressive as a busboy. I was really intense as a dishwasher. And then my mom started taking me to different culinary schools. I ended up going to Westmoreland Community College.
It wasn’t like I had this vision for what my career was going to look like. I tell a lot of kids whenever I go places to speak because I think that’s important for them to hear, that I was really more like them than they think. A lot of times people think, “That’s just Rosendale, and he had this whole vision.” It’s really not the case. You don’t know. You don’t know if you’re going to make the decision that’s going to be the wrong one, or if you’re going to not do well and spend time and energy going down one path and you have to redirect. You try things. Some people get lucky. I feel like I got very lucky and blessed that this career found me early on. That’s really what has created the biggest opportunity for me: a little bit of luck as well.
Kirk Bachmann: Sure. I love the humility. I want to stay on that topic for a little bit. You mentioned what a force your mom was in your life, and the work ethic; you already had it. That was inherent. That’s in your DNA. I’m curious, as I think about students, during those times when you were the best dishwasher and the best at everything you did – or you tried the hardest – was there someone that was inspiring you, or someone you saw? Was it a cook, or was it just you? Did you set your own path and stay committed to that path, or did you find inspiration from others?
Richard Rosendale: I had some great instructors back at Westmoreland. As far as helping me with that next chapter, in the early years, really my wife. Again, I met her in seventh grade. She kept me in line. At that time I was young and, like I said, I got into a lot of trouble. Having somebody like that to help me understand the big picture and family and all of that stuff. And my mom, very early on.
When I went to culinary school, Miss Mary Zappone, who oversaw the program at that time, and Shipley – there were all these great instructors. I was always very fortunate. Somebody had mentioned about the Greenbrier apprenticeship program. Most people thought I was nuts. Most of my friends thought I was crazy, that I had just finished this three-year apprenticeship program and I was doing the last day of my practical. I went over to talk to my practical, too. I remember doing spun sugar. I really had the excel factor. “I want to really blow the doors off this thing.” I’ve always been like that. Right now, I can think of a lot of other things I’m still trying to apply that to.
I finished that apprenticeship program. I had my truck already packed up. That night, I drove down to West Virginia and started the next day another three-year apprenticeship program. My friends thought I was out of my mind. “Why would you want to do this? You just finally finished this apprenticeship program. Why go and do that again?”
Kirk Bachmann: You mentioned the Excel spreadsheet. Do you have this chart of milestones? Is it inherent in your DNA? What forced you to get in the car? Again, these are all lessons for the students who sometimes second guess. They don’t follow their instincts sometimes because they don’t think they should. It sounds like you did. You followed your instincts, you checked the box, reached the milestone. Is that something that can be taught? Or is that from within?
Richard Rosendale: I think early on, I was probably motivated by some of the accolades. Graduate top of your class. Get a gold medal in this competition. Early on, that was a motivating factor. However, as I began to see how it shaped my traits and the kind of person I was becoming, I saw the real value was really being more organized and being a better cook, being able to be more productive. These, then, became the real [goal].
I knew if I did the Bocuse d’Or, it was going to make me a better chef. I took the CMC exam, and a lot of times I don’t even mention it when I introduce myself to people. I don’t let any of those things define who I am. We use it in marketing and all this stuff and everything, but in talking with people, I don’t really bring it up a whole lot. But I always look at the result. Doing a lot of those things has made me a better chef. It’s made me more organized. It’s made me a better leader. It’s made me a better entrepreneur. All these things, those competitions were the catalysts to make a better person and chef and family person, all those things that we try to aspire to be.
It’s like having a good physique or being fit. That’s the goal, but in order to accomplish that, you have to focus on the exercise and the push-ups and all those things.
Kirk Bachmann: Really well said. Great advice. Incredible humility. Appreciate that. It’s about the process. It’s about the journey. Not one achievement along the way defines you. That’s just such great advice for students.
The reality is that you’ve competed in some of the craft’s toughest competitions, most taxing competitions. You’ve earned the title of Certified Master Chef, a feat that less than 100 people in the States have accomplished. The Bocuse d’Or is one thing. Culinary Olympics another. CMC yet another. You’ve accomplished them all. I’d love to get personal on how some of these milestones impact your life. For example, at the risk of getting emotional – I love this stuff – why was competing in the Bocuse d’Or and the Culinary Olympics so important to you? Did you already know that was a stop along the way? That you needed to do those things to get to where you’re sitting here today? Or was it just an opportunity that you thought, at the time, “I can do this?” Or did you look beyond that?
Richard Rosendale: I would definitely say early on in my career when the accolades and still building the reputation, those things meant different things as far as planting the seed. But as I got closer and actually finally doing them, I knew that how they would change me – by being a Bocuse d’Or competitor, I knew that was going to be the real value.
What I didn’t expect and anticipate, through all these things, were the relationships that would be built, the friendships. That was the ripple effect of doing it.
Early on, when I first went to the Greenbrier, one of my mentors, Peter Timmins had mentioned about the Bocuse d’Or and the greatest chefs in the world compete in it. One of my proudest moments of my life, of my career professionally, was being able to bring him with me as one of the coaches along with Chef Thomas Keller, and Daniel Boulud, and Grant Achatz all walking into the hall where the Bocuse d’Or was that morning, wearing the Team USA jackets. He had talked to me as an apprentice about the Bocuse d’Or. He would talk about these chefs and how incredible they were. For me to bring him there, it was almost like me paying my respects to him. It was a powerful moment. I could see in his eye how proud that he was.
These are all things in your life. We do them for different reasons, but the reasons change even while the moment is occurring and happening right in front of you. You don’t always realize why you’re doing things. You just have to, initially, follow your gut.
And it’s also okay to be wrong. It’s okay to not be successful, not to succeed in something. You’re not always going to get a gold medal. You’re not always going to get on the podium. These things aren’t always going to turn out the way you anticipate. But it’s the process and the experience that really shapes who you are.
Kirk Bachmann: In terms of the documentary – we haven’t talked about that yet – “The Contender.” In speaking with Philip Tessier a few weeks back, a few months back, it’s so clear when we hear you talk about the competition in its entirety, what people don’t see – and we really saw that in the documentary – what people don’t see is the prep. The hours, and the travel. Your comments about staying at Thomas Keller’s father’s home. You’re away from your family. This is not just a few weeks. This is a couple of years of dedicating yourself to this one-day goal. Can you speak a little bit about both the joy and the challenges behind the scenes, for those who haven’t seen the documentary? The highs and the lows, all outside of just being on the stage that day, and the euphoric high that that must be. Oh my gosh! The emotion must just be overwhelming.
Richard Rosendale: It is. I think it forces you to be disciplined. I will say, probably of all the things over the years that all these competitions have forced me to do is be really disciplined and organized. That also means being organized with your time, being able to find time for family and all these different things.
You can even watch the movie, and it still doesn’t really convey exactly what it’s like. People would be like, “Why would you want to put yourself through something like that?”
Honestly, even today, I don’t even look at career goals and business goals and life goals. They’re all in the same bucket for me. I really feel like going back to our tagline, the inspiration part is I want to be inspired. I want to be excited about something we’re doing. That trajectory has really fueled the momentum over my life and my career.
It started with the apprenticeship program, and then there’s this other apprenticeship program. And then there’s this competition. Then it’s getting married to my wife and having our kids. Then doing the Olympics.
They’re milestones, but I don’t necessarily look at them as standing independently. I look at it as, in life, I really want to enjoy the ride and the journey. The way to do that is to have things to look forward to.
Last week on Friday with my boys, we started doing Tae kwon do. I signed up with them. We’re several months into it. We just got our orange belts together. I’ll tell you what: I was kicking the board over at Jun Lee Tae Kwon Do the other day. Shout out to Jun Lee Tae Kwon Do. They’re amazing.
It’s something that fuels me. It keeps me hungry. The day that I stop being excited and hungry and not looking forward to something, I feel like that’s not going to be something I’m going to enjoy. I want to enjoy the ride.
It doesn’t have to be all work related. Everybody thinks that’s all my whole life has been. I’ve been very disciplined over the years. My wife and I met in seventh grade, and we have three kids, but I think that you’ve got to figure out a way to align your goals with things that inspire. That’s when something really magical happens.
Kirk Bachmann: I love how you weave your family into the conversation and into the equation. So thoughtful. I listened to your podcasts when you were interviewing Philip. He mentioned getting to a place where he was able to shut it off. The work, work, work, work, but when he came home, he knew that he had to just leave work behind, be there for the family, be there for whatever responsibilities were there. Was that a difficult piece of the equation for you?
Richard Rosendale: I’m not going to sit here and make it sound like it was an easy thing to do. I’m just saying that, at the end of the day, that’s what you have to accomplish.
When I was at the Greenbrier going through the Bocuse d’Or, I was the last candidate that was also still working a full-time job. And I had a very big job. I was the executive chef and director of food and beverage at the Greenbrier. I had 18 kitchens and 200 culinarians. It was massive, and there were a lot of days that I felt like pulling my hair out. It was just crazy.
That’s why I tried to remove myself and try to structure a plan that could take me out of the frenzy of that busy kitchen. What better place to do that than – we just happened to have a nuclear fallout shelter behind a 22-ton blast door. I went up to the cafeteria, it was the bunker’s cafeteria at the time, and that was our practice kitchen. When I was up there, I had an amazing team – Bryan Skelding, who is now the executive chef there – they were able to take the reins while I was practicing. It was definitely difficult to shift gears and to discipline and say, “Okay, I can’t be thinking about this now. I’ve got to think about this.” Whenever I came home, my wife and I raising children at that time, and we had to shift those gears.
Like anything else, you have to practice at it. If you don’t do that, the consequences can impact your personal life or your health. You can get fatigued. That’s when I started really exercising and hiring a trainer to help me. I didn’t want my fitness to decline because I thought that could impact my overall performance. I didn’t want any of those roles to diminish. I had to still keep my job, and still give time to the apprentices and my family. That discipline is really important.
Kirk Bachmann: I so respect and appreciate the love you have for the craft. You mention your team quite often and your family. I’m just going to pick three incredible names. You mentioned Peter already and Lawrence McFadden and of course Hartmut Handke. I know you’ve worked with many Certified Master Chefs, but could you share? Then I’m going to have you talk a little bit about the Bocuse d’Or, but can you share just a few thoughts about how important those names are to you and to our craft?
Richard Rosendale: Those are three titans. I’m going to tell you: working with each one of them, they had different styles, different things that I picked up from each one of them, but without question, there was greatness that you couldn’t help but improve and get better. When you’re around certain people, their presence and the way that they carry themselves, it brings everybody else up. The ability to mobilize the people around you and to bring the best out of them is really more important than what you do as an individual. They had that ability to do that.
I remember with Chef Handke, one of the things I always thought was amazing about him was…there are a lot of chefs that have a reputation for this or for that, but working with him side-by-side, he was an extraordinary cook. Everything he made was flavorful. He really taught me about seasoning things properly and overcooking things. He was very disciplined in the kitchen.
Chef McFadden, this guy didn’t miss a thing. He could walk into the kitchen, head’s on a swivel, darts right through the kitchen, making his rounds. Then later that night, he comes back and he’ll point something out. “What the heck?” It’s a piece of fish that was overcooked, or whatever.
Chef Timmins, he was probably the chef that had influenced me the most. The thing I really appreciated about him was he was an extraordinary teacher. Whether it was somebody that was a student in our apprenticeship program, or whether it was another Certified Master Chef, he gave the same kind of explanation and level of detail. The man would quote pages out of Escoffier that you’d be like, “There’s no way that’s what’s on page 137.” It was incredible. He always knew the stories about why some of the dishes were named what they were. The cooks at that time couldn’t read and write, and they would name dishes after famous people or famous events. Chicken Marengo, Tournedos Rossini. These all had significance. He could basically recite the history of every dish. It was just remarkable.
Kirk Bachmann: Just fascinating. Thank you for that. Super, super thoughtful. I had the pleasure of meeting all of these titans, as you referred to them. For the listening audience, we’ve talked a lot about Bocuse d’Or and the importance, the significance. Paul Bocuse. Can you share a little bit more about why this particular competition is so important? Not only 2013, you’re involved, then you’re involved with the USA finally getting to the podium with Matthew and Philip, and of course, Thomas Keller and Daniel and so many others that are involved today. Why is this such an important competition in the world?
Richard Rosendale: I think the thing that’s really special about it is you’re representing your country. It is a very proud moment and it’s an honor to be able to go and compete. It’s also an opportunity to get everybody in the United States behind an initiative and to root for. It’s almost like the Olympics, watching snowboarding, ice skating. I play ice hockey, so I remember the Miracle on Ice was really a cool story. I felt like whenever we were competing, I felt like people were setting up TVs in their kitchens and watching. It was cool to be part of.
It also puts it in perspective that you’re really just part of this process. There is an entire team, and people that are behind you and a lot of resources. It’s a very exciting thing to be part of. I was the last chef, working at the Greenbrier at the time. One of the things I recommended was, “Listen, if we really want to win this, the candidate has to be doing just practice for the competition. You can’t have a job. We’ve got to figure out a way to do this.” They did do that. Phil was able to dedicate 100 percent of his time. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to go there and win. You still have to be really creative.
It was just an incredible experience. It’s just you and your teammate. Corey Siegel, who was my Commis at the time we were competing in this. It is intense, being there that day, having all these cameras and people yelling, music playing. I always felt like I had the ability to shut it off, like it was a light switch. Whether I was in a soccer stadium or Thanksgiving dinner at home, I’m able to focus on what I need to focus on. Culinary competitions over the years have helped me to be able to do that.
Kirk Bachmann: In terms of planning and organizing, for the audience, this takes place every two years. The United States is already four years out getting people prepared for this competition. This just popped into my head because [I’ve been] following this for so many years, what is it about the Scandinavian countries in recent years that has elevated them to the top of culinary competitions?
Richard Rosendale: My theory is the culture of young cooks growing up there. They don’t necessarily have [structure and tradition]. Structure and tradition are good, but can be a double-edged sword. If you’re growing up in France and you’re going to school and somebody says, “This is the way you make puff pastry,” that is the ONLY way that you make puff pastry, and you don’t deviate from that.
Where in the Nordic countries, there was an element of exploration where you could do things that weren’t necessarily going to put you in this sandbox, where you have to make puff pastry like this. You’re not necessarily making puff pastry for the Bocuse d’Or, but it’s that level of thinking. Where the French were extraordinary at execution, a lot of the Nordic countries would bring an element of different ideas and they would couple that with an amazing, small support structure. The country and all of the past chefs really got behind the candidates, and they stayed involved.
Finally, the United States did that thanks to the mentor BKB Foundation. I’m still involved, and Gavin has stayed involved. Gavin was a big part of connecting the dots with Thomas and Daniel and Jerome and all them. The United States now is considered a real threat to win the competition now, whereas for years, that wasn’t the case. It has a lot to do with that culture of how you think about culinary competition. I think the Nordic Countries had great resources, but it was also their mindset. It’s very creative, doing things outside of the box, and just very good cooks.
Kirk Bachmann: Great insight. When it comes to Bocuse d’Or, attempting or going down that path of Certified Master Chef, or even the Culinary Olympics or any competition, ACF competitions around the country, is there any subtle advice you might give to young culinarians who are listening to this podcast or Googling things and thinking about, “Wow! I wonder if I could do that”? What would be the most subtle advice you would give, the easiest thing to do first?
Richard Rosendale: I think going and doing culinary competitions to make sure that’s something that you like. For me, I really just followed what I enjoyed doing, what I wanted to do. I think that sometimes where people may go wrong is they may start with, “I want to look like that.” “Oh, I want to be a celebrity chef.” That’s not really where you start. You don’t start off saying, “I want to be a Bocuse d’Or candidate.” That can be a milestone, but it’s really important to recognize the process that is in front of you and that you’ve got to be willing to put the time in in order to be great at that.
Sometimes people will get lucky. Maybe if you want to be a social media influencer you can just post some viral video and success may run out from under you. I wouldn’t count on that. I would count on doing the push-ups, and start off doing the competitions. And make sure it’s something that you really like doing, because if you don’t enjoy doing it, then when finally you get to the top, you’re still not going to be happy. I don’t care how much money anybody pays you. I don’t do what I do to make more money. Making money is part of the process that gives us the means to be able to do the things we want to do. But we want to have fun. We want to enjoy what we do, and we want to attract people that are also going to be inspired, because that is a contagious, positive thing to have in your organization.
Kirk Bachmann: Well said. I’d like to go back to the Greenbrier just a little bit. Even when you speak with such reverence, such a great part of your life, huge property. 11,000 acres, over 700 rooms, 20 restaurants or so, outdoor/indoor venues, shops, beautiful. You’ve talked about that opportunity coming to you, but when you think about the Greenbrier and what that meant to your career and how it created a platform for you, what comes to mind? What was the process like, and what are you most proud of? What legacy have you left at the Greenbrier for future chefs and future guests?
Richard Rosendale: What I remember about the Greenbrier the most are the teachers and the people. I think of them as teachers. I remember making soup with Pete Alderman. I remember the guy who likes shaking out these brunoise vegetables that we had for consomme garnish. The Greenbrier made consomme every day. I was batting it out and getting ready to throw this strainer over in the dish pit, and five little pieces of brunoise carrot left in there. He goes, “Hey, what are you doing?” He made me pull them out! I had to make sure all of the vegetables were out. Little things like that stick with you.
There were so many people at all levels of that organization that you learned from. It was even the people that were Johnny Campbell setting up a party and showing you how to do it efficiently, and how to break things down quickly. That place – I feel like I came out of there and it was Navy Seal training for chefs. You could throw me into anything and I was ready for it. The mentors at all levels, not just the Peter Timmins of the world, but it’s also the people to butcher from and make pies.
From an education standpoint, I was able to do so much repetition. If I was breaking down Dover sole, I had a pile of Dover sole that I had to break down. I got so much practice that was different from what I got going through my first apprenticeship in culinary school. It was a great education, that repetition. Also because there were so many different things going on, I could be doing a gold service dinner and then making sauces. I remember making sauces there as a senior apprentice. One day, I had over 55 sauces to make by four o’clock. One of them was Bearnaise for 600 people in a mixer. It was absolutely incredible. It was something that was out of a movie, an imaginary place.
Kirk Bachmann: Such great memories. I can’t wait for the book to come out. I imagine you’re thinking about it.
Richard Rosendale: Yeah. There’d be a lot to say about the Greenbrier, all amazing things.
Kirk Bachmann: That’s just great. Let’s talk about the Rosendale brand a little bit. You’ve already done so much, but it feels just chatting with you, like you’re just getting started. Can we talk a little bit about the Rosendale Collective? Is that where it all starts, and all of the other focus goes in? Innovative company, inspiring the culinary world. What’s the elevator speech? What’s the mission statement?
Richard Rosendale: I knew that when I left the Greenbrier that I didn’t want to go open up a restaurant. I wanted something that was more robust, something that was a company that could have a collection or a repertoire of services and businesses that are essentially under our umbrella. Basically, if you go to Rosendale Collective, you can see a lot of the different facets of what we do. We have Route 657 restaurant that is in Leesburg, Virginia. We have Forklift, our events center. It is in a warehouse. We do a lot of our cooking classes in there. We have the RC Culinary Lab, which is a USDA facility, and we do a lot of our R&D and consulting out of there. That’s essentially our headquarters. We have Rosendale Events in Atlanta. It’s at 200 Peachtree. We [are the] exclusive caterer for 110,000-square foot event space. This Friday, we’re launching a new concept there that will be at the Harry Potter exhibit for the next six months. We have a lot of different consulting projects that we do. We have about 12 culinary instructors that are certified to teach various topics of RC curriculum, our Rosendale Collective curriculum. These chefs go all over the countries doing various private training for various companies. We also did a partnership with the Residence Club at Ocean Reef, Florida, and launched the food and beverage program. We have Rosendale Online, which is our online recipe subscription platform.
I know we do a lot of different things. We also just launched the Rich’s Backyard, our premium spice blends. We have that available on Amazon. In all these cases, everything starts as one thing at a time. I didn’t leave the Greenbrier and add all this stuff. We started Rosendale Collective – and by the way, it was just me. I started doing my own consulting. I was in Dubai doing projects. I started doing the show Recipe Rehab. When I moved the operation to Virginia – we’re in the D.C. metro, very close to Dulles Airport – that’s when things really started to accelerate.
It’s amazing, the stuff. I can’t even tell you. When I was in culinary school, if you could tell me, “Hey, this is what you’re going to be doing and how you’re going to be doing it.” It’s really been amazing. We think about things, and we do them. Believe it or not, in order for the systems of what we do to work and to make sense, there is a lot of cross-pollination of resources. Rosendale Online: “How do these guys have time to come up with content and do all this stuff?” If we’re doing an event out at the Allegiant Stadium for the Raiders, we’ll pull four of those dishes off, and that will be content that we’ve done, that we’ve used somewhere. We’ll put that on the platform. We have an event coming up with Ferrari. We’ll take two of those dishes and say, “We’re going to use this in our next class.” We do a lot of overlapping to try to connect the dots.
By the way, that helps us get better and fine tune a lot of the things we’re doing. We created a Rosendale Collective task force that people can apply for and be part of our task force. Being a part of the task force, you can go to different events all over the United States. We have openings with our culinary instructors. We have very attractive compensation for them and they get to travel. They train with us to learn the curriculum, and then they can go and do the courses themselves.
A lot of this has been like building blocks we’ve been stacking and stacking, but they really are interconnected in a lot of different ways.
Kirk Bachmann: I appreciate that. Congratulations! Unbelievable success. Again, you’re just getting started.
I was at an event in New York City a few years ago. Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert were up on the stage. They’re really good together. Someone raised their hand and said, “Hey, Chefs, when you’re not in the kitchen, who’s cooking?” They both kind of chuckled and looked at each other and Ripert responded, “Oh, it’s the same people in the kitchen when I am in the restaurant are doing the cooking.”
That’s a lot. It’s your brand. It’s your name, and you can’t be everywhere. How important is the team, your team?
Richard Rosendale: I did a post the other day highlighting how important our team is. Doing things that are going to inspire people and being able to attract more of those people, that really is the golden goose. You have to be able to attract the right people and to keep them, and to keep people inspired. I believe we’ve been able to attract the right people, really just great people. Christopher Rieloff, who is our corporate chef based in Miami, he came to one of the classes years ago as a participant when I was doing classes when I left the Greenbrier. He said, “Hey, Chef, this has been a really inspiring experience. Do you mind if I ever come and help you out with a couple classes?” He started doing that. He came to a couple classes, and then I offered him a job. That job turned from hourly into salary, and I kept moving him up. Now he’s corporate chef, and he oversees all of the content for the online platform. He handles all of our training remotely around the United States. He is at a lot of the events as the lead chef for a lot of those.
What we’ve done is we’ve made each other better, and we’ve been bringing other people into the organization. We have Scott Poff now. Talking about the Greenbrier, we have two people that are working with me that I was working with at the Greenbrier. One of them was a classmate of mine, Scott Poff, who is our director of culinary for the Roots brands. He oversees all of that. He and I were classmates in the apprenticeship program. I know he’s battle-tested. There’s nothing you can throw on him that that guy isn’t going to be able to handle. Andrea Griffith is the executive chef at the Residence Club in Florida. She’s also on our task force, and she’s also one of our instructors.
Having the right people and people you can trust, but also people who are going to be excited about what you’re doing, that keeps me going. That keeps me excited.
Kirk Bachmann: Well said. “Chef Magazine” has referred to you as “a new breed of American chefs, this combination of different generations and philosophies from within the industry.” What’s that mean to you? What is a new breed of American chefs?
Richard Rosendale: When I was an apprentice and when I look back to a lot of my mentors, they grew up in kitchens that were very structured. It was like, “Here’s the way that you do things.” Pointing back to that, a European model in the kitchen, the hierarchy and the way things worked in Escoffier and all of that. I think I was at that turning point – tipping point, if you will – where I was one of the first chefs really doing sous vide in the United States in the Tavern Room years ago. Pre-internet, practically.
Kirk Bachmann: You’re not that old!
Richard Rosendale: Before people really started using the internet. I remember going to Google, which I really didn’t use very much, and searching sous vide, and there was nothing. There was nothing on it. The thing is, going to Peter Timmins and saying, “Hey, you want to taste these short ribs?They’ve been floating around in a water bath for two days.” He’s looking at me like, “What the hell is wrong with you!”
Being open-minded to a lot of these different ideas. By the way, some of the ideas and things are not going to be good. they’re not good ideas. But I think being open to trying a lot of those and merging a lot of those. I know when I took the CMC exam, I probably did a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have done. I was probably overly ambitious with some of the menus, and sometimes it showed in the score. I didn’t go up there and get a perfect score every time.
But I think you’ve got to be willing to try different things and be willing to make mistakes. Even at this level, you have to be willing to still make mistakes. That’s how you get better, as long as you take corrective action and get better.
Kirk Bachmann: You don’t score unless you shoot. I love that.
It reminded me as you were talking about that, taking the test, Ed used to always say you don’t show up to take the Certified Master Chef exam to learn something. You show up to cook. Sometimes you take risks.
I was going to ask: in your TED talk – I thought this was fascinating – you talk about running out of runway. By the way, a precious TED talk. I’ve mentioned this to you, when you brought up the little bench that you made when you were a little boy and how your boys, who are getting older now, how they used to use that bench. It’s a perfect analogy to settle the crowd. “Listen. I’m up here, and I’m going to talk to you as human beings, and I’m going to be really emotional and transparent.” Kudos on that. It captured my attention immediately.
But you talk about running out of runway. You talk about prioritizing, how important it is to prioritize things, ventures, projects, people that are important to you. How’s your runway today?
Richard Rosendale: I feel like I’ve been able to do a lot of the things that I’ve wanted to do. The one thing my wife would tell you, I feel like I leave everything on the table. I don’t have anything that I’m looking back on and saying, “I probably should have done this.” I probably have done more things than I probably should have done. I think it’s an important analogy. I want to always echo to other people to say, “Listen. What are you waiting for?”
People talk about, “I want to do this. I want to do that.” I think the first time I even said that, someone else brought it up to me. “Wow, I haven’t heard that before.” But I was talking to an apprentice who was talking about all these different jobs that he wanted to do. I said, “Well, Chef, what are you waiting for? You’re running out of runway.”
You could talk about doing things and before you know, five years go by. You think, “Well, I’ll do this again in a couple of years.” You’ve got to really strike while the pan is hot because it may not get hot again. You’ve got to keep the momentum and really seize the time and the opportunity, because life goes by really fast. By the way, I mean that about spending time with your kids, if you have kids and that’s important, or your mom or your dad. Whatever. Whatever it is, sometimes people tend to procrastinate. That’s one thing Peter Timmins always would say, “Procrastination is the thief of time.”
Before you know it [it’s gone]. Time is a dollar bill, and every day, think about the equity of time and where and how you’re spending it. If there is anything I feel like I point to that I’ve done well, believe it or not, I wouldn’t say cook or competitions. I would say managing my time. Being able to give enough to these different things and all these different people. I’m still blessed to have many of these people still around me. I think that is where you want to center your attention: how you spend your time. Think of it as very precious. You can run out of it. You don’t know when. If there’s a goal that’s in front of you, go after it and don’t worry about waiting until the conditions are optimal for flight. Just go after it.
Kirk Bachmann: Go for it. It’s the tagline of the century: Tom Brady, “Let’s go!” Everything’s “let’s go.” I love that quote by Peter. It reminded me, I’ve got a journal I’ve had for years, and Peter signed it years and years ago. I’m going to pull that journal out and add that quote to it. I think it’s absolutely beautiful.
Gosh! I have so many questions. I think we’re going to have to do a Part Deux. Two quick things, Chef. Building a brand is so important. It’s clear that you’re being very thoughtful as you do this. Are there some critical elements? I’m a big fan of stacked rankings. If we had more time, I’d ask you, “Top three bands of all time. Go.” If there’s a podium for critical elements that entrepreneurs should 100 percent consider when trying to build their brand? Any insight there? What not to do or what to do?
Richard Rosendale: The number one thing I would say is really find your voice. That means to really think about what it is that you want to say. What do you want your brand to say? Really, that is going to dictate what everything else looks like. What does your logo look like? What does the font look like? What do the pictures feel like? By the way, a brand doesn’t mean you have to go out and launch a business. Your brand is your reputation. You don’t even have to have a logo.
That would be the other thing. Don’t start with a logo. Don’t start with a website. That’s not a brand. You’ve got to think about what your voice is. What are you trying to say? What is your brand trying to say? Is it a not-for-profit community garden and this is the mission? This is what we want to accomplish. That’s a brand. All of your marketing collateral, all of your messaging, the way your team dresses – which can be very casual. It just means that the voice and what it is that you or your initiative, your company, what have you, your brand, wants to say. It really informs what everything else looks like and feels like.
When people say, “Hey, I’m launching a website. I’ve got a logo.” I think, “For what? What is it you’re trying to say?” You could just have a website. I think having a website is great. It can be a person, it could be a thing, a product. Whatever.
But I think that is the big thing: what is the mission? If you want to be the best executive chef or the premiere caterer in Los Angeles or Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, that’s fine. All these things are the voice. But when you say, “I want to be the most sought-after caterer,” all of your pictures and the colors and everything, there should be some continuity. “Oh, I know what I’m going to get with this person,” whether that’s somebody coming in with a job interview.
People are brands. Now, you can on Facebook and you can get a lot of information about somebody before they ever hit the first interview.
Kirk Bachmann: Very good. I’ve got another great quote there. “Find your voice.” Brilliant.
Chef, the name of the podcast is the Ultimate Dish. My final question is, in all your travels, in all your experience, what is the ultimate dish?
Richard Rosendale: Man. I’ve had so many amazing meals. I have eaten Michelin star restaurants and Bocuse d’Or. Whenever I was doing the Bocuse d’Or, all these chefs were so generous. Whenever Corey and I would go to a different city anywhere in the world as part of our training, they would do these incredible meals for us. Oh my God.
One that’s funny is we went and ate at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant. That was a Friday. We were food fatigued. We ate so much food. Then the very next day, we didn’t know, but Jerome was flying in – his son, Jerome Bocuse. He said, “Hey guys. Tonight, I’m taking you to my dad’s restaurant.” We thought, “Oh my God!” It was two nights in a row eating there. That was a funny one.
Point to all of these amazing meals I’ve had. French Laundry, Alinea, my family, wonderful meals.
But when I was on my first apprenticeship, I went to Italy. I had a pasta dish there. It was the first time I really had extraordinary pasta. It was just simple. Pasta, some greens, mushrooms, and a little bit of cheese on it. I can still remember. I was like, “Oh. Okay.”
Kirk Bachmann: That’s it.
Richard Rosendale: This is great food. Now I understand. It was on the opposite side of the spectrum from all the culinary competitions and what I thought you had to do to make food great. Then I go to this little restaurant in the afternoon and have a glass of wine and four ingredients in a bowl, and thought, “Whoa! Man.” So that, to me, is probably one of the most memorable bites.
I didn’t have great food at that stage. I ate at lots of good restaurants, but I had not experienced the French Laundry’s of the world. It was just traveling internationally, going to Italy, and having a basic bowl of pasta, but it was amazing.
Kirk Bachmann: I love that. Oftentimes, the ultimate dish is just the beautiful memory of an experience, whether with your family or by yourself. I love that.
It kind of reminds me of “Ratatouille” when he sits down and he takes it back to his childhood. That’s what food should do, transport us.
Richard Rosendale: On that same trip, I was with my friends and we all happened to have football jerseys on. We were in Pescara on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. We were sitting in a little restaurant and we were getting ready to order. Then the server comes over and sets this big platter of seafood down. I look over and ask, “Did you order this?” No one had ordered anything.
Here, the table next to us of some local people that thought we were American football players sent us a bunch of seafood. Maybe they thought I was the kicker of something. I don’t look like a football player.
Those memories are as important as the actual food itself. Really incredible moments.
Kirk Bachmann: Just love that. Chef, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Just absolutely fascinating. I wish you all the luck in the world, and I hope we can chat again.
Richard Rosendale: Absolutely. My pleasure, Kirk. Thanks for having me on the show.
Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely.
And thank you for listening to the Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.