Chef News

Erich Rosenberg of Novo Coffee Is a Roast Beast

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Rosenberg's work ethic comes from his parents, who worked sixty- to seventy-hour weeks in retail management while he was growing up. He even remembers helping them stock shelves when he was seven or eight. His family moved around a lot when he was young, mostly in California. "I went to three different second grades," he says. "My brother went to two different high schools his senior year. The longest I've ever lived anywhere is seven years."

Hard work and frequent moves rubbed off on him; he's never had trouble finding jobs, but he's also never found a place to settle down. In Las Vegas for his senior year of high school, Rosenberg took a job at a Starbucks, mainly because the girl he was interested in was a regular customer, but also because he loved coffee even as a teenager. Starbucks proved to be somewhat of a constant in his life; he quickly rose to the level of store manager and was able to satisfy his urge to keep moving by getting jobs in Starbucks outposts in various cities around the West.

But ultimately, he realized that he wasn't a fan of the corporate environment or the growing automation of coffee service. "I worked there for eight years, six different times," he says. "I pretty much made myself unemployable there."

Rosenberg still has some respect for Starbucks, though. "They have one of the best training programs in the world," he notes. "And they've turned on a legion of people who want to be in this business, who've gone out on their own."

In between stopping and restarting jobs at Starbucks, Rosenberg has been a bouncer, a bartender, an ice-cream maker and a cook. While living in Portland, he met the woman who would become his wife; not long after their wedding, they moved to Denver to be near her ailing mother. They didn't plan to stay in Denver, but that's what happened. Through a connection with his wife, Rosenberg landed a job as a line cook at Devil's Food Bakery & Cookery. Then the world of coffee called out to him again, and he took a job with Novo in 2009, where he's been ever since.

"You do the dirty work," he states, "and someone eventually gives you the fun work." His perseverance at the only job he'd held for more than a year paid off: Today he's Novo's head roaster, and his knowledge of the process of growing, sourcing and coaxing flavors from the beans (seeds, actually, he explains) seems encyclopedic. His years of experience working with coffee formed the basis of that knowledge, but he's also taken classes here and there, done a lot of reading and had good teachers, he says.

Keep reading for more about Novo Coffee and Erich Rosenberg.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation