Originally published in the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival 2013 program.

Certified Master Chef, U.S.A. Representative, Bocuse d’Or 2013. Photo: courtesy of Richard Rosendale

It’s not in Richard Rosendale‘s DNA to give up. He learned that from his mom, who raised him and his sister by herself. When a fire on Christmas Day destroyed everything they had, his valiant mother stayed strong and pushed through. And that’s been the motivation behind this certified master chef and 2013 U.S.A. candidate for the Bocuse d’Or, who has already amassed more than 45 national and international medals.

CET: You’ve been the captain for the U.S.A. Culinary Olympic Team, you opened your own restaurant at age 31 to critical acclaim, and now you’re a certified master chef Where did this all begin?

RR: It all started in Uniontown, Penn., where I grew up. I was inspired to cook at an early age by my grandparents, one Italian and one German. They really nurtured my love for food. And my grandfather had a farm, so I was exposed to charcuterie and farm-fresh produce as a result.

CET: Were you always this competitive?

RR: I have always been very competitive, even in high school playing everything — football, hockey and running track. But my first ‘unofficial’ cooking competition was when I was in high school and I took a home economics class. The teacher announced a cake-decorating contest and I won by doing a pool table cake. Once I got into culinary school, then I really started to get exposed to competitions as part of my training. I found that by participating in these, it was really honing my skills to a very high level. I was more disciplined, practicing my technique as well as having an outlet for my creativity.

CET: What were your expectations going into this year’s Bocuse d’Or?

RR: My expectations were that I would go in there and do what I came there to do. That was to execute my program exactly how I had rehearsed it. After that, it was really up to the judges. In cooking competitions, you really can’t worry about the outcome. You have to focus on doing your best and executing your program.

CET: Is it true you’ve never been to Hawaii?

RR: This will be my first time to come out and visit. I can’t wait — and I cannot believe I have not been there before as much as I’ve traveled.

CET: How has participating in so many competitions impacted your career?

RR: Well, the biggest benefit is not what this experience does for you. Rather, it is the ripple effect it has on the people around you. It brings your operation to a higher level, as well as the people around you. People affiliated with the world’s most grand cooking competition have an expectation about standards, and this event brings out the best in you. It’s an amazing period of both personal and professional growth.  You have the opportunity to work with the likes of the amazing team of chefs that support you,  including Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. That, alone, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.