Mel's Diner: Jennie Rosenthal
February 5, 2007 1:52 AM
Who: Jennie Rosenthal, director, Midwest sales, NBC Universal
When: Jan. 16, 2007, dinner
Where: Michael Mina, Bellagio, Las Vegas
Dined On: Must. Have. Lobster pot pie.
I didn’t even catch the name of the restaurant we were going to at first. All I knew: They had lobster pot pie.
Jennie Rosenthal was determined to make it to Michael Mina while in Las Vegas for the NATPE conference for one reason. Um, do I need to say it again?
She discovered the restaurant’s signature dish, served in a copper pot and wheeled out on its own tabletop, a few years ago while in town with her husband, Chicago Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal. (I imagine their two adorable small children already know more about TV than I do, like, genetically.) She went back the next night to order it again.
You can get the dish at Michael Mina restaurants in other cities, but the rather over-the-top production seems especially Vegas-tastic.
The server performs an elegant presentation, removing the crust, re-assembling the lobster on top of the pastry (Jennie’s favorite part) then dramatically ladling the other contents of the pot over the reconstructed crustacean before—Ta-Da!—resting the plate gingerly in front of the lucky diner.
Did it live up to her memory? “Hell yeah,” she said.
The rest of us dining that night, TelevisionWeek Design Director Jennifer Ciminillo, who once worked with Jennie’s husband Phil at the Chicago Sun-Times and introduced me to Jennie, Senior Editor Jon Lafayette and I had good meals too. I think I had a risotto special and Jen and Jon had whatever they had cooked in three different ways—another Michael Mina signature aside from the pot pie.
The reverence for the lobster pot pie among the diners, however, was so powerful that details of our other eats remain a little fuzzy.
What was clear during the dining experience is that Jennie could probably sell me my own name if she believed I needed it. She’s truly a great natural salesperson who delivers. I know, she shared the lobster pot pie! She knows her stuff, she knows quality, and when she’s enthusiastic about something, it’s difficult to imagine not agreeing with her. Probably no matter the price.
Did I mention lobster pot pie runs 80-something bucks?
The Dish: Jennie has been based in Chicago, her hometown, for six years. (Jan. 15 was her sixth anniversary of living in Chicago).
She directs sales of syndicated series to stations for NBC Universal in about 25 mid-sized to small markets in the Midwest. Cincinnati is her largest territory.
She was at NATPE to help launch the company’s new Monday-through-Friday series starring “Jerry Springer” bouncer Steve Wilkos and to do business on other NBC Universal shows. She’s been to NATPE about a half dozen times and considers it a “great opportunity to see all of my colleagues and meet with general managers from stations I cover.”
While the lobster pot pie this year will certainly go down in history, one of her most memorable NATPE dining experiences was from a morning meeting last year with a station executive at the Verandah restaurant in The Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas.
The news that The WB and UPN would be merged to create The CW was announced while they were eating.
“Cell phones and BlackBerrys started going off and people walked away from their breakfasts,” she said.
Prior to moving to Chicago, Jennie spent 11 years in Los Angeles, where she was an agent at Innovative and a TV drama development executive at Paramount. She was Jennie Zbikowski then, and known affectionately among the creative community as “Jennie Z.”
Walking with her through Mandalay Bay’s casino after the lobster pot pie outing, it was apparent the nickname stuck.
A stream of people at the hotel for NATPE greeted her as Jennie Z, and after a few quick conversations about the topic of the night I was sure Michael Mina would be dragging out a few extra copper pots before the convention was over.
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