By Kate Ward
Updated February 26, 2009 at 10:21 PM EST
Credit: Virginia Sherwood

On last night’s Top Chef, 35-year-old Hosea Rosenberg hosed the competition and was awarded the coveted winning title. So how did he begin his first day as the reigning Top Chef? The tight-lipped chef — who didn’t tell a soul about his win — kindly called up to chat about his victory, Toby, and yes, Leah.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did it feel to watch the show last night?

HOSEA ROSENBERG: Oh, it was so fun. We did a big viewing party at a restaurant. [The show] was [playing] on the big screen and there were hundreds of people there, and people [were] holding up signs with my name on it and just cheering every time the judges said something nice to me.

So you were you back in Boulder?

Yeah, in Boulder.

Did any contestants join you? Or was it just your friends and family?

It was friends and family and Melissa, who was on the show, who works downtown with me.

Did any of them know you won?

I hadn’t told a single soul in Boulder.

Was it hard to keep that a secret?

It was, but it wasn’t as hard as people thought it would be. I had every one of my friends coming up to me and punching me on the arm, like, I can’t believe you kept that a secret. Nobody thinks I’m good at keeping secrets, but this was a good one.

Did you think you had it in the bag all season? You were a formidable competitor…

Early on, I really thought that I would do well. Up until halfway through the season, I was really in a groove and really felt like I was showing myself to be one of the top players. And then things got a little unraveled for me. Toward the end of being in New York, I didn’t really feel like I was putting my best foot forward and creating my best food, and I was kind of just getting by. It was all mental. I was getting too stressed out. I had stuff on my mind about my parents and about my relationship and a lot of things. It kind of threw me off my game for awhile. [But] I had that break [prior to filming the finale], and I was able to just recollect, and I was able to put my head back on straight and remember what I was doing. And going back to New Orleans, I felt confident, I felt happy, I was relaxed. I really felt good about being there. I felt I deserved to be there. And I was there to show everybody that I had what it took.

After the jump: “Stefan is cocky. But he’s cocky for a reason. And he backs it up.”

addCredit(“Virginia Sherwood”)

Last season, the chefs had the opportunity to cook withwell-known professionals in the finale. You guys cooked with chefs fromprevious seasons of the show. Were you at all disappointed about that?

I consider all three of them [Casey Thompson, Richard Blais, andMarcel Vigneron] professional chefs. I don’t think there’s anydifference between them and the people that last season got to workwith, other than time in the business. I think all three of them havereally promising careers and it was a huge honor. And in some ways, itwas intimidating to work with Richard. I know that he’s got more timeunder his belt as a chef than I do. So I would love to work with himagain and learn from the guy. He’s a huge force in the culinary world.It was a big honor. But I did feel that out of the three, he was thedefinitely the [best] choice.

Did Richard add a lot to your final meal?

It was my meal, but it was his sensibility. What I asked him for wasinput. Nonstop. I said, “Don’t filter anything. Give me all your input.I’ll choose whether or not I want to take it.” He had a couple reallycool ideas. One of the good ideas he had was plating the fish course onthe walk-in, so everything stayed really cold until we brought it outto the judges. Little things like that. We didn’t change my dishes, buthe helped me make sure everything was going out as good as it could go.

It seemed you were nervous about cooking a dessert, but you won the Thanksgiving challenge with a dessert.

I wasn’t nervous about dessert. I had a dessert in mind that I wasgoing to do. I knew we were going to get some sort of twist. And I wasjust assuming that I would have to end up making a dessert. So I had adessert ready to go, but when we found out it was an appetizer course,I decided to stick to my three-course menu. I easily could have put outa dessert, but I’m not a pastry chef. Personally, if I’m only eatingthree courses, I’m going to get three savory courses. So I don’t feellike a meal that short has to have a dessert at the end of it. I don’tthink it’s necessary.

You guys all helped each other so much this season, but the finalwas a bit different, what with the fois gras fight. What happened?

Throughout the season, there’s been times where people will grabsomething and not share it. I’m always helping people out. I’m lendingtools, I’m sharing ingredients. I feel like there was a lot ofcamaraderie with our group and a lot of helping out. However, this wasthe last meal. I walked into the [kitchen], and I saw fois gras and Igrabbed it. And Stefan started yelling at me that he was going to useit. And my initial reaction was, you know, no way, dude. It’s mine. Butthen I took a breath and thought, okay, we can split it right down themiddle. I’ll give you half. And he was still upset about that. And Ididn’t understand why he was so angry when I was willing to give himhalf. That to me seemed completely fair.

Constantly throughout the season, you said that Stefan was cocky. We viewers really didn’t see too much cockiness until the final twoepisodes. Was he worse than what we saw on TV?

Stefan is cocky. But he’s cocky for a reason. And he backs it up. Ihave a lot of respect for Stefan, and I also consider him a truefriend. And what you see are those little interactions where we’regetting into it, but overall, 95 percent of the time living with him,we really got along really well. We enjoyed each other and we had a lotof great conversations. We talked a lot about everything. About life,about cooking, about food. There’s a reason he’s cocky. He’s cockybecause he knows he was dominating the competition, he’s one of thebest chefs the show has ever seen. That’s his style and that’s who heis. I have a lot of respect for Stefan. All the jabbing and all thesmack talk you saw in the show was just more playful than it was meantto be mean.

Carla was really doing well toward the end of the season, but you guys seemed to ignore her as a competitor. Why?

Toward the end of being in New York, I was shocked by Carla. Shetotally surprised every one of us that was there and really showed usthat when she’s in her groove, she can really get it done. Going intothe finale in New Orleans, I definitely considered her a threat. Butshe’s so sweet and nice, I’m not going to say anything bad about thegirl. I was hoping that if I didn’t win it was going to be her. Notthat I didn’t think Stefan didn’t deserve the title, but it would havebeen nice to see her win. And honestly, when she told me what her menuwas for that last meal, I really thought she had it. I really thoughtshe was going to end up with the title. But unfortunately, a few thingswent wrong for her. It just came down to details in the end. It wasn’tthat anybody’s food was bad. The whole competition is about the lastperformance. It’s not about your overall performance. It’s the lastmeal you served, and that’s what it came down to.

A lot of the viewers weren’t fans of Toby this season. What did you think about him? Compared to the other chefs?

I thought he was hilarious. He was cracking me up a lot. Hedefinitely made fun of me, made fun of everybody, made fun of himself.It was refreshing to see a new attitude on the judges’ table. I didn’talways agree with what he was saying. But I think overall, he wasfunny. I didn’t have any problems with him.

Was there anything anyone said about you that you saw watching the show back that hurt?

No, not really. There was one or two things that happened during theshow that I didn’t really like to watch. It is what it is. You’reseeing six weeks of our lives. And 5 percent of those six weeksactually aired. And you know, I could comment all day about what wasn’tshown, or what was taken out of context. But it is a show, and it iswhat it is. And I’m fine with all of it.

I’m guessing you’re talking about your showmance with Leah. Areyou guys still in touch? Any potential for a future relationship?

We’re still in touch. We’re good friends. I care about her. I think she’s an amazing chef, and I consider her a good friend.

Are the two of you still dating the significant others you were seeing during the show?

No, neither one of us is still with our significant others.

Was there any chef that came off differently on TV than they did in real life?

That’s interesting. You know, I do feel like when you get in thatinterview room and you’re talking one-on-one with that camera, it’sdifferent than when you’re hanging out with a group of people. And Ithink all of us said things in the heat of themoment, or the words might have been taken a little out of context, butI think that we all, for the most part, were portrayed as who we are.

After the show ended, Jeff said he was frustrated about beingused as a sex object by Bravo. You tell us: Did he really go shirtlessas often as it seemed?

You know, Jeff’s from Miami. I think he just forgot he wasn’t at the beach from time to time.

What was the hardest challenge for you?

The hardest challenge, but probably one of the most excitingchallenges, I think was Le Bernardin. I loved being there, even thoughI didn’t [prepare] my monkfish perfectly. I really was just honored andfelt happy. It was something special to be cooking in [Eric Ripert’s]kitchen, cooking his food. But that was also one of the hardest. I feltintimidated, and [was] under a severe amount of stress.

Is there anything you would have done differently throughout the show?

There were a lot of things I would have done differently. The mainthing for me would be my attitude after that incident with Leah. I justgot too stressed out. I really wasn’t acting like myself, and I washaving a hard time being there. I don’t think my food was as good as myfood is. I didn’t present myself well those last few challenges in NewYork, because I don’t think my head was on straight. But after a break,coming back to New Orleans relaxed and centered, I felt like my foodwas much better.

So what are your plans for the future?

Looking to open a restaurant in the very near future. I’m alsolooking on a product line that will be in Whole Foods, some preparedfoods. I’m working with a company that’s already established. But we’regoing to be expanding their line and doing a lot of work with them.I’ve also been invited to a bunch of food festivals, so that’ssomething that will be really fun.

Are you still at Jax Fish House in Boulder?

I am. I’m going to be in and out of town a lot the next few weeks.So people coming into the restaurant to see me might be disappointed.But my title is still executive chef at Jax, so that’s where I’m atcurrently.