In spite of her award-winning history, Chef Sarah Stegner is modest in the way she approaches her life as a chef. Stegner’s culinary résumé makes her one of America’s most respected chefs. Her rise to fame began in 1994 when she was named the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef. This was an award of national importance and while it gave Stegner great prestige, it did not affect the warm and very personal way in which she approaches cooking.
From the beginning, Stegner was creative. She spent a year studying classical guitar at Northwestern University, and then followed her heart and enrolled at the Dumas Pere Cooking School in Glencoe, which at the time was one of the few professional culinary schools in the Chicago area. She graduated with a chef’s certificate one year later and was hired as an apprentice at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Chicago, under the guiding hands of executive chef Fernand Gutierrez.
Over the years, Stegner received numerous accolades that built her reputation and that of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton. While she certainly enjoyed the recognition, Stegner continued to stay focused on her main culinary mission: cooking with the best seasonal ingredients she could find. She accelerated her search for locally produced ingredients.