When Top Chef: Colorado filmed an episode in Boulder in spring 2017, chef Hosea Rosenberg (EngrPhys’97) served as a guest judge.
The experience elicited strong feelings from when he competed — and won — the show in New York in 2009.
“I was super glad to not be a contestant,” said Rosenberg, who lives in Boulder and owns two restaurants, Blackbelly Market and the newly opened Santo. “I know how stressful that show is. I would have nightmares about it when I came home.
Stress aside, Rosenberg said the show opened opportunities for him.
“I got to cook for some of the best chefs in the world,” he said — Jacques Pépin, Lidia Bastianich and Marcus Sam- uelsson, for instance. “It proved to me I can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time if I’m forced to.”
Nearly a decade later, Rosenberg — a married father of a one-year-old — has firmly established himself as one of Boulder’s own top chefs. Santo opened in late 2017 off Broadway and Alpine streets to positive customer reviews, and Blackbelly is, to many, a Boulder staple and is especially well known for its meat dishes.
With Santo, Rosenberg is tapping into northern New Mexican cuisine, a tribute to his childhood in Taos, N.M.
You’re only as good as the last plate of food you’ve put out.”
“Here, it’s all about green chili,” he said.
Growing up, Rosenberg, 44, often visited Boulder, where his half-sister lived. When it was time for college, CU was front of mind.
“I liked the idea of going to college somewhere in the Rockies, close to my home, but far enough away that I wasn’t reminded of it every day,” he said.
He majored in engineering physics and worked his first college job at the Boulder Salad Company, then located near McGuckin Hardware. Throughout college, Rosenberg worked both kitchen and engineering jobs, including a stint at CU’s planetarium. After graduation, he and a friend took time to travel.
“During our travels, I decided that I wanted to become a chef and not be an engineer,” he said.
He was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America, but a mentor encouraged him to forgo culinary school.
“My chef mentor told me, ‘Get a job where you’re going to get paid to learn, rather than pay to learn,’” he said. “It was good advice.”
Rosenberg worked at Denver and Boulder restaurants and became head chef at the now-closed Dandelion on Walnut Street at age 26. In 2008, he was selected for season five of Top Chef. His $100,000 winnings allowed him to stay in Boulder, run a catering company, food truck, farm and, eventually, his restaurants.
All the while, he’s prioritized quality, local ingredients and seasonal, creative menus.
“Hosea knows we could make more money if we sold commodity food but refuses to take the easy way out,” said Ian Reusch, Blackbelly and Santo’s director of operations. “That type of devotion is hard to find in such a cut-throat industry, and it makes all the difference.”
For Rosenberg, he’s challenged to strive for more.
“You’re only as good as the last plate of food you’ve put out,” he said.
Photo by Rachel Adams Photography