Sarah Rosenberg has developed branding, video-storytelling, and public relations strategies for some of the hospitality world’s most iconic names, such as fine dining luminaries like Make It Nice, the team behind Eleven Madison Park (ranked the No. 1 restaurant in the world in 2017) and the Nomad Hotel.
Before founding her company, Wicked Good Media, Rosenberg, 42, cut her teeth as a journalist and producer with the storied ABC News program Nightline, spending 11 years in the trenches from Baghdad to Washington, D.C. Rosenberg sat down with Penta over coffee at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City.
My favorite neighborhood in the world is… this is funny because I want to be cool and say Paris or Johannesburg or something to make me sound more exotic, but in reality, it’s (New York’s) East Village. I’ve been living there for over a decade now–a year into moving there, I found out my grandfather grew up in the tenement a block away from me. I walk around my neighborhood every day and I find something new, every single time. It feels like the last bit of New York that’s still old school, that fosters this idea of mom-and-pop stores and boutiques, the idea still exists that “you can make it here…”. It’s still gritty in a way that you feel alive. It doesn’t feel plastic.
The one thing in my pantry I can’t live without is… this bartender’s spoon—the long ones with the spirally handle—I got in one of these in a swag bag maybe 10 years ago, and I probably use it every day. This is the embarrassing part: I eat gallons of almond butter and this spoon is the best spoon to get into the bottom of the jar without getting your hands covered in almond butter. It’s so long that you feel like a lady while you eat the last bits of the jar. You just scoop it and put a little sea salt on it and you’re good. The spoon is amazing.
If I could buy one piece of art it would be… there was recently a photograph of Joni Mitchell and (artist) David Hockney that was taken candidly at a Hockney solo exhibition in L.A. It’s this incredible photo of the two of them holding hands, wearing these bright, beautiful colors—it’s a photo of how beautiful old age can be—it’s a celebration of art and age and love. If I could buy the rights to that photo and just keep it, maybe make postcards out of it and just carry it with me wherever I go… I cried when I saw it. In this time of gray, this happiness and color just shot right through my heart.
The best book I’ve read recently is… A Little Life. It tore me apart. It took me about three chapters to really commit to it—you have to get the characters, the language, and all the relationships, and then you are rewarded. The way she writes about friendship and love and betrayal and grief. And the comfort of home. I wept. By the end, when I knew I only had two chapters left I would slow down so much, I would read a couple of paragraphs and then close the book because I didn’t want it to end. That was my favorite, probably of all time.
A secret passion of mine that few people know about is… for the last few years, I’ve been throwing these parties where I bring together amazing women all from different parts of my life. I sit you next to someone I know you don’t know so everybody walks away with a new friend. It’s grown from 10 people at a breakfast a few years ago to a 50-person dinner at the last one in December of 2018. I do one a year.
A trip I’ve taken I would love to do again is… I went to Sifnos last year, a Greek island about a three-hour ferry from Athens. It’s like you are going back in time. Little white cubed houses line the mountainside, and it’s quiet and it smells like salty goodness and the food is amazing and fresh. It’s magical. I want to go back.
The next destination on my travel itinerary is… Menorca, Spain. I am finishing up my time working with the team at Make It Nice (EMP/Nomad Hotel) and I figured I needed a ritual of completion to celebrate all that we accomplished together and moving on to the next chapter. End of April for seven days, I am just going to sit in the sun, do some yoga, and hang out.
The thing that gets me up in the morning is… I have a call every morning with my sister. 8:30 a.m. She drops off her kid and then calls me on her way to work. It’s 25 minutes every morning. It’s the greatest—we laugh, we get everything out, we solve each other’s problems, and then she goes on with her day and I go on with mine.
The restaurant I always take visitors to is… Lavagna. It’s on Fifth and Ave. B (in the East Village). I probably go once a week. It’s an Italian place, super packed, with a teeny bar. The owner is this amazing guy and all of the servers are Italian and the food is incredible. I get the same order every time: Mista salad and the rigatoni.
A person who inspires me to do what I do is… the former executive producer of Nightline, his name was Leroy Seivers and he died about a decade ago—he was a force of nature. A giant of a man, well over 6 feet tall, big hands, booming voice and the best laugh in the entire world. He was a war reporter—he had covered virtually every conflict all over the world. He eventually became the executive producer and when I became the desk assistant at Nightline, he really took me under his wing. He saw something in me.
If I could have a drink with anyone, anywhere, it would be… right now, my dark journalism side wants someone like Elizabeth Holmes or Martin Shkreli—I want to try to understand what they were thinking. I’m drawn to these people who I think owe us an explanation for their behavior. That’s my dark side. More recently, though, the Prime Minister of New Zealand would be one—I want to sit down with her ask her how she found the courage to lead under such difficult circumstances. She has just shined.
On the more fun side, I’m actually obsessed with Dax Shepard. And I love his podcast and it wouldn’t be a drink, it would be a green juice, because he’s sober, but I just find him to be the most fascinating human because he is so comfortable in his own skin. And he is somebody that is a great interviewer and does his research and makes people laugh.