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‘Top Chef’ winner Hosea talks Stefan, Leah and bunk beds

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Leading up to Wednesday night’s Season 5 finale of ‘Top Chef,’ it seemed things could go one of two ways: Either cocky chef Stefan was going to take home the title for Team Europe or lovable underdog Carla was going to pull an upset. The third contestant, Hosea Rosenberg, had proved himself a consistently strong chef, but all the focus seemed to be on what he was doing with fellow contestant Leah rather than what he was doing in the kitchen.

However, the 34-year-old Colorado native took home the title in a dramatic finish and talked about everything from his rivalry with Stefan to controversial new judge Toby Young to, yes, the infamous Leah couch kiss. The hardest thing about ‘Top Chef’ according to Rosenberg? ‘Living in a bunk bed!’

What’s the best part about winning ‘Top Chef’ for you: the title, the money or beating Stefan?

That’s funny. I mean it’s just the fact that I was able to pull it off. I mean it just feels so good and then all the love I’m getting from my friends, family and the community -- it just feels great.

Was it obvious while you were all preparing the final challenge what was going on with Carla and Casey? I feel like that would be hard to watch her go through that.
I didn’t notice anything going on. The only thing I noticed that was odd to me, that I did comment on, was the fact that they were doing a lot of sous vide cooking for her meal and she had not once done that the whole time and she had never once talked about cooking in that manner, so it just seemed like she was departing from her roots. I thought that either would elevate her food even more or might get her into trouble.

But I didn’t really have time to worry about that, I was so busy; this was such a race to get the food done that I didn’t notice really anything that anyone else was doing until the end, until we were up there for the last time and she leaned over to me and she said, ‘I didn’t get everything done.’ When she told that to me, I just felt terrible for her because hearing her menu, I knew she had a winning combination and I knew she had a really good chance of winning. I just felt terrible for Carla.

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Who were your favorites of the other chefs in terms of skill?
Well, I mean, Stefan came to this competition with the most skills. I think he’s one of the most talented chefs the show’s ever seen. I think Fabio brought his personality, which, in the restaurant business, that says a lot. You want a place where you’re having fun and you’re comfortable being. I think he is a good chef, but he also has that extra something that people want -- that will bring people to his restaurant. You know I think Jamie has an amazing skills, I really admired Jeff and Leah as well as chefs. I’d say those guys were all really talented chefs. I think the top six was no accident. Everybody that was in that top six really deserved to be there, top seven even.

Whose feedback did you prefer between judge Gail Simmons and her temporary replacement, Toby Young? If it had to come down between the two, who do you prefer?
I have no problems with Toby. I know some people really didn’t like his attitude or what he was saying about the food, but I thought he was hilarious. He made me laugh even when he was poking on me. But if I had to choose who I was going to ride in the car for the next three hours, it would be Gail hands down, or having dinner with or being critiqued by. I think she’s a wonderful person, I think she’s a sweetheart, but she also knows a ton about food, and she’s really involved in the food scene in America. So I would have to pick Gail, but that’s not because I dislike Toby, I just like Gail more.

Looking back, did you have something that was your best dish or your favorite and also something that was your least favorite?
I made a number of dishes I was really happy with during the season. I think two of my best performances were in the very first elimination challenge when I did that trio -- I was really happy with that dish. Then, obviously the last meal I put together is one of my best. I was really proud of the gumbo as well in that second-to-last episode. I had a number of moments in the show that I wish I could go back and change. One of the obvious ones is the interaction with Leah and what happened with us, which threw me off my game. In turn, it made me not as focused on the food, which is why I wasn’t winning at the end there. You know I was definitely on the bottom a little bit toward the end of New York. A big part of that was just my attitude, and it was a couple of decisions I made along the road that I wish, if I had time to go and do over, I would. But overall, I’m happy with my performance. I feel like, as a chef, you’re never perfect, you’re just always striving to perfect your skills and I’m just really happy I got through it all alive.

Bringing up Leah, I now have to ask about what happened between you two. You obviously talked to the cameras afterward but did you realize at the time that the cameras were on you guys in that moment on the couch?
When you’re living in a house for six weeks with cameras everywhere, you just get used to it; it becomes part of the environment. The whole environment was surreal; the fact that I was living in a bunk bed, the fact that I wasn’t allowed to leave the house that I had to ask permission to go to the bathroom. All these things make for a very surreal living environment and after six weeks, some of it starts becoming normal to you. It’s life, things happen and you just move on from it. But to be stuck in that situation after what happened with Leah and I was really hard. I just wanted to go hang out with a good friend for a couple hours and get some relief from it and you can’t leave. That was the hardest part about it.

Are you still in touch?
Totally, she is a good friend. I think we’ll be friends for a long time. I care about her. I consider her a great chef and a great friend.

We heard earlier today from Toby Young that ‘Top Chef Masters’ is currently filming. Are you involved with that or have you heard any good scoop?
I’ve heard a couple things about the show, definitely, but I’m not involved. I think it’s all happening out in California, and I know a couple of the guys from our season have talked about it, but currently I’m not involved in the Masters.

What are your plans now and what are you going to do with the money?
Well, part of it is figuring it all out. My immediate plans are to spend a little time with my family, in particular my dad, whose cancer is getting worse, so I’m going to take off a little time and go be with him. Then I’m going to see my mom as well, who’s also been sick lately. So some good family time, a little break and then I’m going to be going back to work and then my sort-of future plans right now are to open a restaurant in Colorado of my own. Then I’m also involved with a food company that’s based out of Colorado that does gourmet prepared foods. We are expanding their line big time and I’m going be a partner in the company so you’re going to see us at a lot of Whole Foods and a lot of stores across the country.

Are you a ‘Top Chef’ contestant we will probably see back on the show in future seasons?
Yeah, I’d love to. If they ask me to come back, I’ll totally do it. As long as I don’t have to live in a bunk bed for six weeks, I’m totally in. I’m just happy I made it through alive and I’m just honored to have made it through the experience and won. I don’t feel any sense of entitlement, I just feel really happy and lucky to have done this.

-- Kate Stanhope

Related:
‘Top Chef’s’ Stefan Richter: ‘People are just intimidated by me’
‘Top Chef’: Casey dooms Carla, Stefan does dessert, Hosea wins title

Photo: Hosea Rosenberg. Credit: NBC Universal


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