Several Wisconsin chefs, restaurants are James Beard Award semifinalists this year

The 84-seat dining room features a chef’s counter facing the expansive open-concept kitchen. Not pictured is the 18-seat horseshoe-shaped front bar and central walk-in wine vault that holds 2,000 bottles.
Lupi & Iris' 84-seat dining room features a chef’s counter facing the expansive open-concept kitchen. Credit: Lupi & Iris

Last updated on January 26th, 2023 at 02:18 pm

Wisconsin’s culinary scene has once again made a strong showing among this year’s James Beard Award contenders.

The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced the semifinalists for its annual Restaurant and Chef Awards, which is considered among the industry’s most prestigious recognitions of culinary talent. All told, Wisconsin is represented by 11 individual restauranteurs and eight dining establishments named to the national list, with several of the bunch located in the Milwaukee area.

Notably, the owners of Milwaukee-based Black Shoe Hospitality – Amy and Jason Kerstein, Joe Muench and Dan Snider – are among 20 nominees from across the U.S. for Outstanding Restaurateur. Black Shoe is the group behind Story Hill BKC, Blue’s Egg, Maxie’s and Buttermint Finer Dining & Cocktails.

Six Wisconsin chefs are up for the regional honor of Best Chef Midwest:

  • Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite of EsterEv in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward
  • Gregory León of Amilinda in downtown Milwaukee
  • Francesco Mangano of Osteria Papavero in Madison
  • Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger of Fairchild in Madison

In addition, one of downtown Milwaukee’s newest fine dining spots, Lupi & Iris, is up for the national honor of Best New Restaurant. Opened in May on the ground floor of the 7Seventy7 building at 777 N. Van Buren St., the Mediterranean restaurant is the brainchild of one of Milwaukee’s James Beard Award winning chefs, Adam Siegel, and local real estate developer Michael DeMichele.

Other semifinalist nominations include Wickman House in Ellison Bay for Outstanding Restaurant and Andrew Hutchison of Madison Sourdough in Madison for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker.

Finalists will be announced on March 29, and winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Last year’s program saw Milwaukee claim a James Beard Award-winning chef for the first time since 2014 when Dane Baldwin, owner and chef at The Diplomat on East Brady Street in Milwaukee, took home the award for Best Chef Midwest.

Baldwin, 40, now sits among a small group of local chefs to receive the honor, including Sanford D’Amato, Siegel, Paul Bartolotta and Justin Aprahamian. Days after he received the award, Baldwin sat down with BizTimes Milwaukee associate editor Maredithe Meyer to reflect on his career journey and what winning a James Beard Award means for his restaurant and for Milwaukee’s dining scene. Read their conversation here.

Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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