Sarah Stegner grew up in Evanston, Illinois in a family devoted to food. Her grandmother was a caterer before women did those kinds of things. She and her family spent many hours in the kitchen cooking together. She then went to Northwestern University in Evanston, studying classical guitar, but then she followed her heart and enrolled in one of the few cooking schools in the Chicago area those days, the Dumas Pere Cooking School in Glencoe, Illinois.
After graduating with a chef’s certificate, she was hired as an apprentice by Great Chef Fernand Gutierrez at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago’s Hancock Building. As she worked her way up the culinary ladder at the Ritz, Chef Gutierrez left for Mexico and George Bumbaris became the executive chef, with Sarah as second in command. Great Chefs returned to the Ritz in 1994 to tape Sarah for their Great Chefs – Great Cities television series. In 1998, Great Chefs had teamed up with the Weber Grill folks and came back to Chicago to tape a one hour BBQ show “Great Chefs Grill Out – Chicago” with Chef Stegner.
Years later, in 2004, Chef Sarah Stegner and Great Chef George Bumbaris left the Ritz-Carlton (20 years is a long time for one chef to remain at a hotel restaurant) to open together, the Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, Illinois where they remain today in 2016.