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Hosea: I thought Carla would win ‘Top Chef’

Though he just won “Top Chef,” it doesn't mean Hosea Rosenberg always thought he had the title in the bag. The Colorado-based chef dishes on his kiss with fellow chef Leah, why he thought Carla was going to win and what he plans to do with his $100,000 prize.
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He sweat it out in New Orleans — and on Wednesday night Hosea Rosenberg, 35, was named Top Chef after beating finalists Carla and Stefan. His secret? Quiet confidence, says the Boulder, Colo.-based chef, who celebrated his win with a rooftop viewing party. “I didn’t get much sleep last night,” he says the next morning. Calling before he begins his official media tour, the “Top Chef” winner takes on his fierce competitors, explains what happened after his infamous kiss with Leah and tells us what he plans to do with his $100,000 prize.

Q: Congratulations on winning. How hard was it for you to keep it a secret?

A: It wasn’t that hard actually. It was this cool secret and I wanted everyone to find out at the same time. I couldn’t let it get spilled. It sounds weird but it was easier to keep this secret than it was when I got back from New York and knew I was going to the finale. That was actually a harder secret to keep.

Q: You didn’t seem rattled at all during the final challenge — even with the twist. How confident were you?

A: My attitude was just different in New Orleans. When we were in New York a lot of stuff happened, including the Leah incident. It really rattled me. For the last few weeks there, I really wasn’t feeling like myself — and it showed in my performance. I started out in the beginning of the show doing pretty well. [But then] I was just kind of flipping by. I felt like I barely got into the finale. I was the underdog going in there. But I had some time off and I got to re-collect myself. And for me, going into anything in life with a good attitude … you’ll perform better. I was just thrilled to be there at all.

Q: Are you and Leah still good friends?

A: I consider Leah a good friend. We definitely connected in New York. Although I regret crossing that line with her, it didn’t make us hate each other. We talk often. I feel like I’m going to be good friends with her for a long time.

Q: What was it like watching your kiss play out on television — and what happened when you got home to your girlfriend?

A: It’s just awkward. I think it’s awkward for everybody that watches that. What happened happened. I got through it. I told my girlfriend as soon as I got home. We tried to work it out. She was obviously very upset with me. It affected our relationship. After that, things were just different. And I still feel terrible about that.

Q: What was the rivalry like with Stefan?

A: It’s absolutely a friendly rivalry. I liken it to going out and playing one on one basketball with a buddy of yours. There’s smack talk. You’re ribbing each other. You’re totally trying to crush the other guy — and when you do beat him, you’re laughing in his face. But it’s healthy and I have no vindictive feelings toward Stefan. I have a lot of respect for him.

Q: When — if at all — did you realize that Carla was having serious problems with her food?

A: I didn’t notice any problems with Carla until she told me … she had missed at least one component on every course. I just felt so terrible for her because before we started plating and she told me what her menu was, I thought she was going to win it. Her menu sounded the best to me. I knew I would have to do a perfect job even to have a chance [at winning].

Q: How much do you think sous chef Casey Thompson hurt her chances at winning?

A: I can’t comment too much on that. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t in their conversation. I know that Casey made some suggestions that Carla regretted later just because it wasn’t necessarily the way she cooks.

Q: What are your plans now? What are you going to do with your money?

A: My immediate plan [is that] I’m staying at the restaurant I’m at, but I’m working toward opening a restaurant. Eventually my long-term goal is to have a number of restaurants. I’m also working with a local group to do a food line that will be in Whole Foods, among other stores. I’m going to use the money to forward my career. It’s less about the money and more about the exposure. The money’s great — but the fact that I won will open some doors.