Part Four: Rosendale the Entrepreneur: Roots 657 and Rosendale Collective

Read all parts in this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

Modern kitchen technology such as CVap helps Rosendale envision a new future for restaurants.

While the blue flame ever burning within Richard Rosendale wasn’t snuffed out by his seventh-place finish at 2013 Bocuse d’Or, accomplishing his goal of cooking in it gave him a new vision for the second half of his career. He wanted more time with his wife and young children, and he wanted to revisit the entrepreneurial waters once more. That same year he left The Greenbrier to begin work on a new restaurant and a consulting and educational company.

The former would be called Roots 657 Café & Local Market; the latter, Rosendale Collective. Roots would feature simple but delicious smoked meats, sandwiches, soups and a store, and the Collective would focus on training and education for chefs, food writers and cooking enthusiasts. Roots marked a distinct departure from the high-pressure, elevated cooking for volume at The Greenbrier, while the Collective was a chance to show others what he’d learned in his years working below his culinary mentors. In both operations, the Winston CVap would play crucial roles.

“When I first saw one several years ago, I didn’t really understand the capabilities of it,” Rosendale said. “I assumed it was an ordinary hot box—things you see throughout the industry and in various forms. Until I started working with it, I didn’t really understand how you could dial in in the CVap that precisely and what else I’d be able to do with them.”

Central to Roots’ in-house, to-go and catering menus is smoked pork shoulder, turkey breast and beef brisket sold whole, by the pound and by the sandwich. Knowing standard heated holding cabinets weren’t ideal for maintaining smoked meats’ temperature and texture, Rosendale became a quick study of CVap for those purposes.

“For years, a lot of people who’ve cooked in barbecue competitions would wrap up meat and throw it into cooler,” he said. “But while that works for a competition, if you’re running a full-service restaurant, it’s not an effective and reliable way to do that. You want to really control the conditions inside that cabinet, everything from humidity to ambient temperature. A cooler isn’t reliable way to do it at scale.”

Like many chefs at his level, he’d mastered sous vide cooking. But CVap made him think about high-moisture cooking somewhat in reverse.

“In a water bath, the food in that bag is tumbling around in water bath,” he began. “But when you’re cooking with vapor, the product is stationary on a rack and the vapor is tumbling all around the product. I saw immediately how simple that was.”

Soon, his thoughts were moving from CVap’s simplicity to its sophistication. He was learning to control the cabinet’s precise combinations of humidity and dry heat to not only cook food to specific temperature and texture targets, he also learned he could hold them at those targets safely and for long periods if necessary.

“When people are so focused on cooking the food, they don’t always understand the same kind of careful conditions that need to be met when holding food,” Rosendale said. “You want to get to the point that you hit the quality curve and then keep it there as long as you can. You can’t do that with just any hot box.”

The more Rosendale learned about CVap, the more its non-cooking attributes came into view. Realizing that CVaps don’t have to be located below an exhaust hood was a revelation that made him rethink restaurant design ideas.

“When you look at it from the perspective of opening a restaurant, where you know infrastructure is going to be expensive, to think that you have a piece of equipment that can do what it does and not need space under a hood is an amazing advantage,” Rosendale said. “Being able to park it along the wall gives you a lot more range within your opening budget.”

That thinking played a role in creating a Rosendale Collective class on Modern Efficiency with Equipment. In the class, Rosendale teaches students to understand that buying equipment isn’t just about how it cooks or chills food. Rather, a piece of equipment’s ability to generate a return on investment must be considered. Modern equipment that reduces labor and utility costs pays for itself by boosting bottom-line profits, he said.

Relative to CVap, long and precise holding increases food yield and reduces food waste, and being able to let it cook overnight, unattended and without a hood turned on reduces labor and utility costs.

“When you can have production happening without staff working, that’s huge,” Rosendale said. Food safety is another advantage, he added. “In too many traditional kitchens, food is being thawed at room temperature where bacteria and pathogens become an issue. But when you can put it in CVap and speed it through that danger zone from undercooked to fully cooked, that’s safe.”

While Rosendale said he could cook some of his favorite dishes in traditional ovens, the precise low and slow application of vapor heating makes for an unrivaled final product on the plate.

“I like doing an Asian-spiced pork belly marinated with fish sauce, turbinado sugar, jalapenos, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, chiles, hoisin, scallions and sambal,” he began. “I could get that meat up to 185 F with a regular oven, but never at the low temperature I could achieve using CVap. In CVap I can keep the humidity so much higher and, a result, get a moist product with exceptional yield. Since a traditional oven doesn’t transfer heat the same way, it would melt out all the that marbling and fat that makes belly so good. I want that vapor to carry that heat because it does it so much more efficiently.”