Last updated on June 17th, 2022 at 02:42 pm
For the first time since 2014, Milwaukee has a James Beard Award-winning chef.
Dane Baldwin, owner and chef at The Diplomat on East Brady Street in Milwaukee, was awarded “Best Chef: Midwest” by the James Beard Foundation on Monday night at its Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony.
Baldwin beat out five other finalists for the award, including two local contenders: Karen Bell, owner and chef at Bavette La Boucherie in the Historic Third Ward, and Gregory León, owner and chef at Amilinda in downtown Milwaukee.
It’s the first-ever James Beard award for Baldwin, who was a semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest in 2019 and 2020.
Taking the stage to receive his award in front of a large crowd at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, an emotional Baldwin said he didn’t expect to win the award, but “you have to expect the unexpected.” He went on to thank his wife and daughters, the James Beard Foundation and “everyone who has ever taken a chance on me.”
“I’m just so grateful. I’m at a loss for words, I’m sorry. Thank you,” he said.
Baldwin opened The Diplomat in 2017 at 815 E. Brady St., after almost 15 years working at high-end restaurants in Milwaukee. The restaurant is known for its take on American cuisine, served in a shareable plate format, with a seasonally rotating menu.
Baldwin’s culinary credentials include a nearly three-year stint as executive chef at Mr. B’s – A Bartolotta Steakhouse in Brookfield, and earlier head chef and sous chef roles at Harbor House, now-closed Graffito and Carnevor.
He’s one of only a few Milwaukee chefs to receive the Best Chef: Midwest honor, with the most recent being Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in 2014. The cohort also includes Adam Siegel, formerly of Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro in 2008, and Sanford D’Amato of Sanford in 1996. Paul Bartolotta, now co-founder, owner and chef at The Bartolotta Restaurants, won Best Chef: Southwest in 2009 while operating Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip. He won Best Chef: Midwest in 1994 as executive chef and managing partner at Spiaggia in Chicago.