Chicago Latin Fusion Benefit Review - Lots of Fun

Sarah Stegner, Co-owner and chef of Prairie Grass in Northbrook provided the space for a fundraiser to benefit the Chicago Latin Fusion dance group on April 24th. My friend, Mary Jo McMillin , chef and caterer on the North Shore, and I learned about this event from different sources but decided to attend it together.  As a fan of the restaurant, I was curious to see the way the restaurant would be transformed and as a lover of dance, I was interested in the various kinds of dance that would be offered.  Mary Jo was interested in joining her friend, Jared and some other chefs from the area, and was also anxious to do some dancing.



Arriving we were warmly greeted by Chef Sarah Stegner still in her white uniform since dinner guest were just leaving the restaurant.  Soon, however, we saw a different Sarah, one who was not only dressed for dancing, but also one who danced like a pro.


How did this come about? One night last year, Stegner went out dancing with her cooks. She saw that all of them were great dancers. "They were nice and tried to include me but I really couldn't keep up, so I thought 'I want to learn this, too.'" She started taking Latin Dance lessons at a studio called “May I have this Dance” on Elston Avenue in Chicago. She began learning bachata, cumbia and salsa.  Their website states that: “The May I Have This Dance Studio is like no other. Even within your first experience, you will notice how genuinely welcoming all the staff and students are, how unintimidating the environment is, and how we achieve the unique balance of professional-quality teaching and having a lot of fun!” What makes May I Have the Dance so special.

The atmosphere at the fundraiser exemplified their stated goals. I didn’t really intend to enter into the dancing but both my friend and I did and it was so much fun, I am tempted to take a class at the studio.


But why was Sarah willing to open her restaurant for this event? Two-time James Beard award winning chef Sarah Stegner, co-owner of the hugely successful Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, Illinois, and also a wife and mother, is one person who has made balancing her work life with her personal life an important priority. During the past three years, she has begun a joyous yet rigorous regimen to stay fit and healthy-physically, mentally and spiritually. She consulted with a nutritionist who helped her identify the most appropriate food choices for health and took up Cumbia and Bachata dance lessons at May I Have This Dance Please as a way to get fit, have fun and release stress. Stegner has lost more than 80 pounds and looks and feels great.

"Finding a balance in life makes us more creative and better able to do our jobs," said Stegner. "It makes us more effective when handling challenging situations.  It gives us a more defined perspective and a release from the tension."


The evening featured Cumbia and Bachata dance lessons by Itza Riedas and Jorge Licona and performances by Chicago Latin Fusion, the group who hopes that enough funds were raised to make it possible for them to take their show on the road. Sarah Stegner is as creative in her fund raising as she is with her fabulous food.  This was a unique evening.


When I return to Prairie Grass for brunch, which I do periodically, my thoughts will be of the night it turned itself into a Latin Dance venue. Prairie Grass Café is that great restaurant in Northbrook that supports Chicago's Green City Market and local sustainable farms, selecting the freshest ingredients to reflect the season.


Prairie Grass Cafe currently serves lunch Monday - Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Prairie Grass Cafe also serves breakfast Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays 9:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Light fare is available in the bar Monday through Friday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.


For more information or to make a reservation, please call (847) 205-4433 or visit the Prairie Grass website


Photos: B. Keer





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