Chef and Michigan native Brandon Rosen, who now resides in San Mateo in California’s San Francisco Bay area, competed on the most recent season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and was a major presence at all three days of the Crave Food and Drink Celebration from July 11-13 at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley.
Rosen, who talks openly about growing up poor, is currently working as a private chef in Northern California. He said of his “Top Chef” experience: “It’s like a really friendly prison where you cut yourself off from what you know living in a house with 15 people. I hadn’t met anyone there before Day 1 of the shoot, and it’s like being in a dorm room at school again.”
The good-natured Rosen, always with a smile and laughs at the ready, answered questions over the phone on July 22, four days before his wedding to his Colombian fiancée in the South American country. Rosen, 29, said that he would be celebrating the nuptials with family and friends in Colombia for 3 1/2 weeks.
Was Crave from July 11-13 your first time in Spokane, and how was your experience at Crave?
It was my first time in Spokane, and Crave was great. The people were really great, a great staff of really nice people. We were all at Crave for the same reason, and it felt like the people of Spokane really wanted to be there and are excited to grow the community and learn and taste.
Did anything about Spokane’s culinary scene stand out to you?
I was only able to dine at a few restaurants, but the scene is really growing. I can tell that there are a lot of up-and-coming chefs and restaurants, and tourism and local support are key to growing the restaurant scene in Spokane.
Was there a highlight at Crave for you, and are you committed to returning to Crave next year?
I didn’t do much other than the food festival (laughs). I did get to Coeur d’Alene, and it is such a pretty lakeside city. I sadly didn’t get to downtown Spokane. I would like to return next year if I’m invited and as long as plans work out.
It was a really great event, and I was really stoked. I had a lot of fun with the guests. The attendees were excited to be there, and it’s more fun to interact when people are super enthusiastic about what they’re seeing. People were happy and having a good time.
What did you take away from competing on Season 16 of Bravo’s “Top Chef”?
“Top Chef” was a great experience for me. I learned how to play in a competition setting, which is definitely a different kind of cooking. I had to learn how to manipulate my food and explain my food.
I walked away from “Top Chef” with 15 new best friends. We cooked together quite a bit, and it’s always good to learn from people from different lifestyles and regions. With chefs from different parts of the country and different cultures, you’re always picking up new things.
What was most surprising about “Top Chef”?
What it takes out of you to be there, to be segregated from the real world and living in the “Top Chef” world. It’s like a really friendly prison where you cut yourself off from what you know living in a house with 15 people. I hadn’t met anyone there before Day 1 of the shoot, and it’s like being in a dorm room at school again.
And before then, your resume includes Eleven Madison Park and the French Laundry. How did these esteemed restaurants shape your career?
When I was 17, I moved to New York City after graduating from high school as a junior and hounded the top 20 restaurants for a job. I just bought a one-way ticket to New York City. My first job was with Alain Ducasse.
I learned my hard-work ethic growing up poor in Michigan. College wasn’t an option, so I worked hard and learned anything and everything by reading. I was a sous chef at Eleven Madison Park at 18 or 19, and that kicked me off into fine dining, which has been a major focus in my career.
You mentioned that you’re about to leave the country for one month. Where are you headed?
It’s not work-related (laughs). I’m getting married on Friday. My girlfriend and soon-to-be wife is Colombian, and we’ll be there for 3 1/2 weeks celebrating with family and friends.
Congratulations, chef. So what is your favorite cuisine? And your guilty pleasure food?
Lasagna! Super cheesy – I could eat an entire pan, but I wouldn’t. If I had to pick a genre, it would be Asian food, but I just like eating great food. I love Japanese food because of its culture of passion that goes into the development of dishes and striving for perfection.
There’s a defined method with a lot of heart and soul. I spend a lot of time eating Asian food and am a huge fan of Korean food and reading Japanese cookbooks.
What is keeping you busy at home in San Mateo in the San Francisco Bay area?
I work for a private client, a high-profile client, and travel around the world with them. We’re heading to the South of France after Colombia, then Croatia and possibly Russia. I spend 50% of my time with them, then the rest of my time working in the U.S. on pop-up dinners and other collaborations.
And food-and-wine events, too, like Crave, Miami Beach, South Beach, Pebble Beach and Aspen. In October, I’m headed to France for the Barilla world competition. At Pebble Beach, I won the People’s Choice award in the Barilla contest and a trip to Paris for the world competition. I’m not going to turn down a free trip to Paris!
What are your immediate goals in your career?
Honestly, the next year or so is about building my place in the industry and focusing on my first year of marriage. I really want to open a restaurant. I have a great development idea and am speaking with people. For the last 16 years, I’ve done nothing but work. Before “Top Chef,” I was six months into working as a private chef. Overall, a life-work balance is important to me for my employees and me.
What is one thing that your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
That is a good question (laughs). If you’re a fan, you know my background. That’s a hard one. Well, people assume that I went to culinary school. They ask, “Where did you go to school?” If you have questions about a culinary education, I’m not the right person to ask.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.