Top Chef Exit Interview: the Winner

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On last night’s Top Chef finale, Hosea Rosenberg beat out sixteen other cheftestants to win $100,000, a trip to Aspen, and a feature in Food & Wine. Not bad for a seafood chef from Colorado. Hosea took time out from his first day as Top Chef to talk to us about winning, kissing, and his cash prize.

Hosea Rosenberg

Hosea Rosenberg, the Top Chef.Photo: Courtesy of Bravo

Before the competition began, what did you do to prepare?
Nothing really. My job is to cook every day and to find inspiration and research. I did what I always do, which is to cook good food. I tried to memorize a few recipes before I came out, mostly pastry recipes. I honed in on a few of my better regarded dishes from the customer standpoint, things that people really seem to enjoy.

When this began and you had sized up your competition, did you think you would win?
I wasn’t sure I’d win, but I definitely put myself in the top tier. I definitely thought there was some real talent in the group, but I also thought I was going to make it farther than half of everyone.

So making it to the finale was not a surprise?
Well, ultimately no, but I was struggling at the end a bit. It’s not that I can’t handle that kind of cooking, but my mind was getting worn down by the end of our time in New York. I feel kind of lucky to have gotten into the finale because I wasn’t putting out my best dishes in the end.

What about in the final challenge? Could you tell you had made the best dishes of the night?
No, it all happened so fast. The time between courses was so fast that I had no time to analyze anyone else’s performance or even taste their food. What I did know was that I had put together a really great meal that I was happy with and I said to Blais that win or lose, I was really happy with our dishes.

Carla was the audience favorite; did she have a real shot at winning the title?
Absolutely. Especially after hearing her menu, I really thought she had a pretty good chance of winning. I was worried about her winning.

What about Stefan’s dishes?
I definitely respect Stefan’s cooking. Out of everyone in this season, he came with the most experience. He is probably the highest-caliber chef of all of us. All along I said he was the guy to beat. He’s very capable of beating Carla and me, he’s shown that time and time again. But it’s all about execution and that last plate that goes out.

Were you jealous of him?
He and I had a had a healthy competitiveness, but it was friendly. We smack talk a little bit because I think both of us felt like the other one was a threat. I don’t think he would have spent any time talking about me if he didn’t think I had it in me.

Did Richard contribute any ideas to your dishes?
What he did is help me hone my thoughts. I told him I didn’t have a menu selected until we went into the kitchen for the first time so we could see what proteins and what ingredients we had to work with. He did suggest plating the fish course in the walk-in and I thought that was a brilliant idea.

What do you plan to do with the prize money?
I do have some plans to open a restaurant of my own. I’ve gotten involved with this food company over the last few months that does gourmet, prepared foods for Whole Foods and other stores across the country. Part of the money is going toward spending time with my dad and my mom, both of whom are ill right now. But I will be investing this money in a business of my own.

Is there any famous chef you’d like to emulate?
I’ll never be as good as Daniel Boulud but I’d love to be like him, owning amazing restaurants and being very involved in the food world.

Obviously the highlight of this experience was winning, but what were the low points?
There were a few times where my food didn’t come out nearly as good as I had hoped, and then obviously the whole Leah incident was a downer for me. It kind of messed me up a little bit and I wasn’t as focused on the food as I should have been. It affected my work and I was mad at myself for that.

What does it mean to be Top Chef?
It’s humbling for me. I made a few mistakes along the way and I was able to recover from that. Being exposed to so much food here in New York City, I was reminded that the journey is so far from complete; I’ve got a lot to learn. I know how to make great flavors, and this is a great starting point for my career.