SARAH STEGNER
The Dining Room, Ritz-Carlton, Chicago
1991:
Represents America in the finals of the Prix Culinaire International Peirre Tattinger. Receives the U.S. Winner title. Is the only female chef present at the global competition.

Sarah Stegner, 35, joined The Ritz-CarIton Chicago in 1984, upon graduation from Cooking School Dumas Père and was immediately recognized as a major talent. The Evanston, Illinois native grew up in a family devoted to food. Her grandmother was a caterer "before women did those kinds of things" and her grandfather was an avid backyard vegetable gardener. The table was the center of the family and where Stegner's passion for food emerged. Following a year studying classical guitar at Northwestern University, Stegner followed her heart and enrolled at the Dumas Père Cooking School. She graduated with a chef's certificate one year later and was hired as an apprentice at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, where she has remained.

In 1990, after six years of working in various culinary capacities, (including a first job of cleaning fish for 12 hours a day), Stegner was promoted to chef of The Dining Room. She worked for years under the guiding hands of Fernand Gutierrez, former executive chef and director of food and beverage at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, and current food and beverage director at Four Seasons Mexico City. Since then, Stegner has distinguished herself as one of America's most creative young chefs.

As a result of her talents, she has captured many national honors. Chef Stegner was named "Best Chef Of The Midwest In 1998" by the prestigious James Beard Foundation and The Dining Room was recently named "One Of The Top 5 Restaurants In Chicago In 1999" by Gourmet magazine and received "Four Stars" from Chicago Tribune. In addition, it is ranked "Best Hotel Dining Room In Chicago In 1999" by the prestigious Zagat Chicago Restaurant Guide and was named "Best Restaurant In Chicago In 1996" by Gourmet; "One Of The Top 13 Hotel Dining Rooms In The U.S. In 1996" by Bon Appetit; "One Of The Top 10 Hotel Restaurants In The World In 1996" by Hotels magazine. Chef Stegner is recipient of the "1995 Robert Mondavi Culinary Award Of Excellence," and captured the national title of "1994 Rising Star Chef Of The Year In America" by The James Beard Foundation. She also holds the title of Prix Culinaire International Pierre Taittinger 1991 U.S. Winner where she represented America in the finals in Paris and was the only female chef present at the global competition. In recent years, Chef Stegner has enjoyed periodic training in France, under the expertise of Chef Pierre Orsi at his two-star Michelin Pierre Orsi Restaurant in Lyon, France and with chefs Bertolli and Gerard Bessin in Paris.

Stegner also finds time to donate her talents to charitable causes. Six years ago, she founded The Women Chefs Of Chicago, comprised of the city's top female chefs who donate cuisine for numerous events throughout the city to raise money for charity. Under her direction, "The Women Chefs of Chicago" have helped raise over $500,000 for Chicagoland charities in the past few years.

Drawing on The Dining Room's classic elegance and French culinary tradition, Stegner marries French technique with American products, sometimes adding a playful twist. She uses the finest seasonal produce from award-winning Midwest vegetable farmers and cheesemakers and relies on infused vegetable oils and juices to maintain strong, yet light dishes. Her contemporary cooking results in dishes such as 70'h Street Farm heirloom tomatoes with petite watercress and sweet pea vine salad drizzled with olive oil and 25-year-old balsamic vinegar and slow-roasted salmon with parsley-brioche crust, parsnip puree, braised leeks and apple cream sauce.