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Menu Talk with Pat and Bret

Sarah Stegner nurtures her community at Prairie Grass Cafe

From her restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, the chef fosters appreciation of local produce and sensitivity to those around her


Sarah Stegner has been the chef and co-owner of Prairie Grass Cafe in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill., since she opened it in 2004. From there she has overseen a community of team members, local suppliers, and customers that she says are essential to the success of the restaurant as well as of those around her.

She’s a founding member of a number of area organizations that foster sustainable food production, including Green City Market, of which she’s also past president, and The Abundance Setting, which supports working women and mothers in foodservice. More recently, she was a co-founder of Chicago Chefs Cook, which has raised more than $1 million since its founding in 2022 through culinary events, some of which has been donated to José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen.

She’s also an advisor to chef Sebastian White of The Evolved Network, which supports farming and culinary education for underprivileged kids in the area.

Stegner was already an industry veteran when she opened her own restaurant, having been chef of The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, for 21 years.

Stegner recently discussed the importance of community in her work, and how she continues to nurture those around her, including the growing number of people who are sensorily sensitive.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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