U.S. teams have twice placed sixth in the competition’s 25-year history, in 2003 and 2009, but no U.S. chef has ever claimed a gold, silver or bronze medal. Rosendale is determined to change this, and he and his commis are throwing themselves into the cause with the intensity of Olympic hopefuls.
By the time they emerge from their bunker and head for Lyon, they will have devoted hundreds of hours to preparation. Trainers have them weight lifting, running, biking, jumping rope and even boxing to get in shape for the grueling 5-hour, 35-minute event. The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, which is underwriting the campaign, estimates it will cost a half-million dollars.
Europeans — the French and Norwegians in particular — have dominated the Bocuse d’Or since its inception in 1987. In recent years, a dream team of U.S. culinary luminaries headed by Thomas Keller (the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.), Daniel Boulud (Daniel in New York City) and Jerome Bocuse (Les Chefs de France at Florida’s Epcot theme park) has taken up the challenge of putting America on the podium, lending their know-how, reputations and impressive fundraising muscle. A benefit at Boulud’s flagship New York restaurant in March raised $700,000, and a fantasy gift in the 2012 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue, offering dinner for 10 prepared by Keller, Boulud, Bocuse (son of the competition’s founder, French chef Paul Bocuse) and Rosendale, has the potential to swell the war chest by $250,000 more.
The torch was passed to Rosendale, a veteran of 48 national and international competitions, in January, when he won the Bocuse d’Or USA at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
“I knew my life had changed when I was driving home and I kept getting calls from the media,” the Greenbrier chef recounts. “When I got back, I had 700 e-mails waiting.”
Embracing his new role, with support from the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation and Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, and equipment donated by sponsors, Rosendale installed a $150,000 duplicate of the kitchen he will use in France in the fallout shelter’s cafeteria. With a nod to history, he dubbed his practice facility the War Room.