On this week’s WORD OF MOUTH with Leiti Hsu, we welcome Sabato Sagaria, Chief Restaurant Officer of The Union Square Hospitality Group, who’s just completed two big openings: the Southern-inspired bar Porchlight and Untitled restaurant in The Whitney Museum. Sabato shares how a cheeseburger in Indonesia at age 13 inspired him to go into hospitality. Also, we’ll talk business school rejection, landing in Aspen, and the documentary Somm.


At the top of the show, we head to the Greenmarket with Daniela Soto-Innes as we get into the weeds—the yummy kind—like lambs quarters, which reminds her of home in Mexico. This week, we #WINEdown in-studio with Sabato, as he discusses rose and #DrinkPink at USHG with Rose 101, without getting too intellectual of course.This program was brought to you by Whole Foods Market.






On how a cheeseburger changed his life – 13:50
“I lived in Jakarta for a year at age 13, and my parents had a friend who the GM of the local five-star hotel. I was touring the hotel and was totally enamored – with the pastry shop, the rooftop swimming pool, and the cravings of food that reminded me of home. Here I was halfway around the world eating a cheeseburger with French fries, Heinz tomato ketchup, and an orange Fanta. I was so far from home but so connected, and I said ‘Hey, I want to do this for other people.'”


On impressing dates – 17:15
“I had a girl I was on the cusp of dating, and her parents dropped her off at my house one evening, so I banished my parents upstairs to the second floor. We ate in the kitchen where I’d been slaving all day making spaghetti, meatballs, and tomato sauce, and I wowed her. She was giving me so much credit for everything I did, and then she goes to help clean and sees a Jell-O cheesecake box in the trash can and then thought I was a complete fraud. I had to talk her off the ledge and convince her that everything else I made was from scratch.”


On passing the Master Sommelier exam – 31:00
“It’s all about perspective when you talk about sanity. There were definitely some casualties of the studying process, some girlfriends that took a side seat along the way to that journey.”


On pre-Momofuku Asian mashup genius – 18:30
“I was a culinary hack back in the day. I had a dish I called Asian dip, which was a form of ramen noodles. I would take a loaf of French bread, break it in half and hollow it out, then cook the ramen noodles, toss them in butter, and put them inside the baguette. Then I’d have the broth on the side and dip the bread in there.”


On Aspen’s wine community – 23:00
“It’s a competitive place, whether you’re training for a marathon or learning to ski, and you tend to find someone better than you to help you get better and compete with. That carries over into the wine world, where you see the community Jay Fletcher has created. People fly from all over the country to sit in Jay’s kitchen and taste with him. He’s like Yoda.”


Sabato Sagaria on Word of Mouth