By Sarah Mansheim
On Sept. 29, Havenbrook Media released “The Contender,” a documentary that takes place in the winter of 2012, where Certified Master Chef Rich Rosendale and his assistant, Corey Siegel, earn the opportunity to represent the United States in the prestigious cooking competition known as the Bocuse d’Or. The documentary is directed by Lewisburg’s Josh Baldwin, who also serves as producer along with Lewisburg native Mark E. Trent.
Held every two years in Lyon, France, the Bocuse d’Or represents the pinnacle of competition cooking. With the United States determined to make the podium for the first time ever, Rich and Corey embark on an intense one-year training regimen that includes the construction of a secret test kitchen inside of a decommissioned cold war bunker. Together with some of America’s greatest chefs, they vied for culinary glory at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France.
Baldwin said he got to know Rosendale as employees of The Greenbrier and The Greenbrier Sporting Club – Rosendale was executive chef at the hotel, and Baldwin worked in marketing for the Sporting Club. As their friendship grew, Baldwin became aware of Rosendale’s acceptance to compete in the Bocuse d’Or, and began to document Rosendale’s training regimen.
“They built a replica kitchen to scale, down to the last square centimeter, in the bunker for Rich to train,” said Baldwin. “Even the outlets were in the same place; all the appliances were the same.”
Rosendale had the crowd noise, which included a British brass band, piped into the replica kitchen so that he could get used to the sound. He physically trained, running and boxing, to get physically fit, and practiced cooking for the five-and-a-half hour long competition “over and over again” for one year.
In order to choreograph his steps, and those taken by his assistant, Corey Siegel, an apprentice in The Greenbrier’s chef program, Rosendale asked Baldwin to begin filming his practices.
Over time, Baldwin said he knew he had something special – a man at the top of his game, training like an athlete for one of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the world. And, Baldwin said, it quickly became apparent that Siegel was on his way to becoming great himself.
“I think he’s a star in the making,” said Baldwin of Rosendale’s Bocuse d’Or assistant. Since the 2012 competition, Siegel completed his chef’s apprenticeship and has received over 17 medals competing both nationally and internationally. He is also the youngest member of ACF Culinary Team USA to compete in the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany in 2016.
Baldwin said the film took three years to be released because, frankly, he kept running out of money. But, now, with the help of Trent, and Lewisburg filmmakers Jennifer Susman and Carling McManus, who run the multimedia company 84 Agency, and Russell Williams, known locally for his film contributions for the Lewisburg Literary Festival, the film is available for viewing online.
Baldwin said he hopes to begin submitting the documentary to film festivals, and, at some point, host a screening at The Lewis Theatre. Viewers can stream the movie now by visiting www.contendermovie.com.