Master Chef Returns to His Roots
Rich Rosendale is a member on the Vitamix Chef Advisory Board, a group that consults with the Vitamix Culinary Team on trends, marketing, innovations and product development.
One of just 67 Certified Master Chefs in the U.S., Rich Rosendale has competed in over 50 elite culinary competitions, including the Bocuse d’Or. He twice led the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team as captain and received gold medals in the World Masters Basel and the World Cup Expogast.
Yet his origins are humble. His parents separated when he was six and that same year their Pennsylvania home was destroyed by a fire on Christmas day. With few resources, his mother moved the family from Connellsville to Uniontown, a town of 10,000 south of Pittsburgh, where people had pitched in to provide her with a car and some clothes for the family.
Rich and his sister, Kristen, learned early to carry their own weight. “My sister went through this journey with me,” Rich explained. “I looked to her to see how she got through everything. We had to be kind of independent.
We had our mom, but she was only one person. You kind of have a unique environment like that when it’s just you, your sister and your mom in the house. You take care of each other and cook for each other. It was a great childhood.”
While he was interested in sports and heavy metal, Rich was also drawn to cake decorating; his Italian and German grandmothers nurtured his love of food, and on TV he watched the “Essence of Emeril,” a pioneering cooking program exploring the relationship between food and entertainment.
When it came time to graduate, Rich’s mother took him around to some local and national culinary schools, many of which were out of their budget. He ended up at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pennsylvania.
Whether in a big city or small town, Rich believes that success depends in large part on being in the company of the right people—mentors who will set you on the right path, and members of your family who support you. Rich gives a lot of credit to his instructors at Westmoreland, his mother and his wife, Laura, whom he met in the seventh grade.
“You want to aspire to get a very high level of training because then you can recalibrate to whatever expectation you need,” Rich explained.
Today, Rich operates not only fine dining ventures but also casual restaurants, featuring pizza, soups, sandwiches and barbecued meats. “What I do is apply the same standards of quality to a much broader range of food than probably many of my peers,” Rich said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people that I knew growing up – friends and family – would never be able to experience fine dining. When I came to Northern Virginia, I decided to open a more casual concept,” he said, referring to his flagship restaurant Roots 657 in Leesburg. “This restaurant is open to the masses. Everybody can come and experience good food. They might say, ‘I can’t believe how good this french fry is or how good this hamburger or brisket is.’ It’s quality food, but it’s approachable and I think they can still see the master chef behind it.”
Rich lives with his wife and three children, Francesca, Liam, and Laurence, in Northern Virginia, where he also operates the RC Culinary Lab, an innovation and training center. For more information on Rich, visit RosendaleCollective.com.