10 Questions with Chicago's Pasta Principessa Sarah Grueneberg

1 of 10
Chef Sarah Grueneberg makes pasta in her Chicago restaurant.
What dish made your career?

I would probably say it was the pasta course that I did on “Top Chef.” It was the dish that really pushed me out of my Italian handcuffs. It was the pasta I made in the final episode, which was a squid ink pasta that I made with shrimp stock and coconut milk and shiso and tomatoes. And then I did a shrimp tartare on top and you stir the shrimp into the pasta and it cooks. The judges were just like, “We’ve never had anything like this before.” That was me really kind of bridging the experiences I’ve had in life.

MORE: Catch up with James Beard Award-winner Sarah Grueneberg in May's cover story.

2 of 10
How do you make time for yourself?
It goes with having a good team and making sure they have your back when you’re not there. It’s about scheduling a week in advance. I have a trainer these days. I was worried I’d do it for a week and be like, ugh, but I really enjoy it.
3 of 10
What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning?
It’s the restaurant or it’s a dish. I’d say in the shower I think about a lot of food, new dishes, it’s probably that. Or I think I just kind of do a run-through of my day, what I have to do. I’m trying to break my habit of looking at my phone.
4 of 10
If you have a free hour to do whatever you want, what do you do?

I’d probably try to go on a boat and take a river tour of Chicago. I love the water. I haven’t been to Italy since before we opened the restaurant, and Jaime hasn’t been since 2011.

5 of 10
Last thing you read:

I just got “Milk Street,” and I hadn’t read it yet. I really enjoyed it. I read more recipes. I also just read “On the Noodle Road,” a book about a food writer who lives in Beijing who follows the Silk Road in search of pasta noodles and how they change from China all the way to Rome.

6 of 10
Last thing you ate:
Last night we ate at 27 Restaurant [in Miami Beach], which is at the Broken Shaker. It was so f-ing delicious, we had this Haitian fried fish with a spicy vegetable slaw and then we had arepas with beans and braised pork. But that fish dish was like insanity.
7 of 10
Favorite movie snack:

Probably cheese and crackers, or a cheese plate with crackers and honey. Always try to have a cheese or two in the house.

8 of 10
Secret ingredient right now:
I think the cooks are always like, I have an ingredient I’ll use a lot of for a little while and switch. Right now, it’s probably Dijon mustard. I like adding a little mustard because it adds a layer of flavor and acidity and a little punch.
9 of 10
Favorite restaurant in Chicago:
My favorite classic restaurant in Chicago is Gibsons. I love the bar; it’s like classic old Chicago. My favorite new restaurant is Mi Tocaya Antojeria, which is Diana Davila’s new restaurant focusing on Mexican—it’s insane, so delicious.
10 of 10
Favorite restaurant in your hometown:
Coltivare, it’s a really delicious Italian restaurant in Houston, and their stuff is super nice.

read more