Since graduating from Westmoreland County Community College's culinary arts program, Richard Rosendale has gone on to have a career most, if not all, chefs would envy.
Still only 37, the Uniontown native has worked for one year at Pittsburgh's tony Duquesne Club, opened his own restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, and traveled extensively in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg, France, Norway and the Philippines taking classes and attending culinary competitions.
While at Napa Valley's highly rated French Laundry restaurant he learned sous vide, the method of cooking food in an airtight plastic bag in a water bath at low temperatures for a long period of time. A professional ice carver, he's also been featured on the Food Network and the "Today Show," cooked for many celebrities and supervised meals for both Congress and the president of the United States.
Currently serving as executive chef and director of food and beverages at the historic, four-star, five-diamond rated Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where he supervises a culinary staff of 165, Mr. Rosendale has amassed a total of more than 45 national and international medals, including a rare perfect score at the international level. In 2009, he returned to the Greenbrier for the third time and, while serving as executive chef, trained for the title of certified master chef.
"To become certified, you have to take a rigorous 130-hour exam at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y., that covers all aspects of cuisine," he said. "The exam is broken up over an eight-day period, and you have to pass each segment to go onto the subsequent one."
The segments include classical French, nutritional, global, baking, pastries, buffet and freestyle or personalized styles of cooking. On the final day of the exam, the chef prepares a Continental style meal over a five-hour period, takes a 30-minute break, writes a menu using a given list of 26 common and exotic ingredients, then prepares the menu as a five-course meal for 10 people.
In 2010, Mr. Rosendale became one of fewer than 100 chefs ever to receive the prestigious master chef title. In the last 10 years, the failure rate for those taking the exam has been 90 percent.
As difficult as the exam was, Mr. Rosendale said he trained for the title as a prelude to what has so far proven to be a career highlight -- qualifying as the American entry for the prestigious Bocuse d'Or culinary competition in Lyon, France.
After winning the right to represent the U.S. in the competition, he built a replica of the Lyon kitchen at the Greenbrier with the same equipment and measurements to the inch, a $150,000 investment. For a year and a half he trained on days off and before and after his duties as the resort's executive chef. He even hired a private trainer to keep him in shape.
"I must have spent an equal amount of time training as I did on the job," he said.
On Jan. 20, he and assistant chef Cory Siegel flew to Lyon to participate in the biennial competition, held this year on Jan. 29.
Competitors were required to prepare two dishes, a beef entree presented on a platter and apportioned to a panel of twelve judges, and a fish course apportioned on twelve individual plates.
"Both dishes were made from scratch over a five-hour period," he said. "It's a lot like the Olympics and a lot of work."
In over 20 years of the competition, no American has ever placed first, second or third, and, this year, the scoring among the 24 competitive teams was very close. France came in first with 1,687 points, followed by Denmark and Japan. Mr. Rosendale placed seventh with 1,495 points, with Sweden coming in sixth with 1502 points, a seven-point difference.
As a result of his participation in the Bocuse d'Or, he's received media coverage around the world including in Dubai, Sri Lanka and China. He was also the subject of a feature in the Jan. 18 edition of the Wall Street Journal and made the December 2012 cover of Washington Post Magazine.
When he arrived back at the Greenbrier and attended his first weekly employee meeting since the competition, everyone present cheered and waved American flags.
"I felt really good about what we did at the Bocuse d'Or," he said. "The food tasted really good, and I don't think we could have done any more than we did. It was, after all, a food competition, and you have to be prepared to be beaten."
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.