Sarah Grueneberg, a 13-year culinary dynamo and Bravo TV’s Top Chef standout, currently serves as the Executive Chef and co-owner of Monteverde restaurant, an authentic Italian restaurant located in Chicago’s lauded West Loop.
Raised in Houston, Texas, Grueneberg wasted no time venturing down the culinary path. Throughout her childhood, she loved spending time with her grandparents, cooking and baking dishes that showcased her family’s German heritage. A restaurateur from day one, Grueneberg even opened her own “restaurant” in fourth grade, offering up her family’s recipes under her school’s bleachers.
Grueneberg’s passion for the kitchen never wavered, and in 2001, she earned her Associate’s degree in the Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Houston. Grueneberg got her first taste of the industry as a line cook at Brennan’s of Houston, an upscale Creole restaurant located in her Texan hometown. While there, Grueneberg thrived in the kitchen, and after four years, she had breezed through the ranks swiftly earning the title of sous chef – the youngest to ever hold the restaurant position at the age of 22.
However, the defining moment in Grueneberg’s career came in 2005, when the talented, knife slinging chef ventured north to Chicago, where she would ultimately catapult herself into the international culinary landscape and develop her eternal love affair with Italian cuisine. Grueneberg landed a gig at none other than Spiaggia, the only four-star Italian restaurant in the city of Chicago, which has served the likes of Oprah and Lady Gaga. This Michelin starred mainstay played an instrumental role in molding Grueneberg into the culinary aficionado she is today, and she continues to cook at the forefront of the industry. Earning prestigious accolades such as: one of ‘Chicago’s Rising Star Chefs’ of 2010 by Chicago Social magazine and the 2011 Eater Awards ‘Chicago Chef of the Year’.
Starting as a line cook beside the now long-time friend and business partner Meg Sahs, Grueneberg chopped and sautéed her way into the hearts (and stomachs) of many Chicagoans, and before long, she received the highest honor from her mentor. Chef Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia creator and James Beard award winner, named the southern girl from Houston as the restaurant’s Executive Chef. In 2011, Grueneberg’s talent quickly gained national and international acclaim through her work on Bravo’s immensely popular reality show, Top Chef: Texas, where she finished as a finalist and most recently appeared as an all-star aboard Top Chef at Sea – traveling through France & Iberian Peninsula.
Flying high on her impressive resume and love for Italian cuisine, Grueneberg left Spiaggia in late 2013 to serve as a chef/consultant for Epic Food Events in Naples, Florida, while simultaneously conceptualizing her forthcoming Italian restaurant, Monteverde, with Sahs. Grueneberg and Sahs have built Monteverde around the foundation of Italian food and culture. Grueneberg has honed her Italian culinary art form through frequent immersion visits to Italy; this includes adventures like truffle hunting in a hazelnut and oak forest with a skilled hunter and his dog, learning the importance of Italy’s regional specialties in some of the country’s finest restaurants. Sarah also participated in the production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia with Andrea Bezzecchi, owner of Acetaia San Giacomo - harvesting fresh Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, stomping them for juice and cooking the juice to make the delicious vinegar. She also joined her friend, nomadic bee keeper, Andrea Paternoster, throughout the Dolomites mountain range and the Venetian canal to help harvest one-of-a-kind mono floral honeys, one of which, from the flower of the purple artichoke, may be available in the new concept.
When Grueneberg is not hard-at-work in her restaurant, she is very active in the Texan and Chicago communities. She has served as a judge and cooked in a variety of culinary events, including the Austin Food & Wine Festival, Chicago Gourmet festival, Ramenfest in Chicago and the Midwestern city’s Mac & Cheese Fest. Grueneberg was also the face of S. Pellegrino, serving as the “Almost Famous Chef” competition judge/mentor for the North Central region.
Although born and raised in Houston, Grueneberg considers Chicago her favorite American city, so it is no surprise that she chose Chicago as her culinary canvas for Monteverde. Both Sahs and Grueneberg agree that Chicago is the place where they both established their careers and where they want to build the first restaurant of their own. They undersatnd the market, guests, competitors and suppliers like the back of their Chef’s knives. Not to mention, Chicago is quickly becoming one the most reputable food capitals in the United States, and both women are looking forward to contributing to the name.