Two Milwaukee restaurants make James Beard Award short lists

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 April 3rd, 2023 at 12:03 am

The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced the finalists for its annual Restaurant and Chef Awards, with Lupi & Iris and Gregory León of Amilinda making the list.

Lupi & Iris, which opened in May in downtown Milwaukee, is one of 10 contenders for Best New Restaurant. The upscale Mediterranean spot is run by James Beard Award-winning chef Adam Siegel and local real estate developer Michael DeMichele. It’s competing for the national award with the likes of Causa in Washington, D.C., Dept of Culture in New York City, Restaurant Beatrice in Dallas, Nolia in Cincinnati and Obélix in Chicago.

Gregory León is up for Best Chef Midwest as the owner and operator of Amilinda, a Spanish and Portuguese concept also located in downtown Milwaukee. León was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma but spent much of his upbringing in his father’s native country of Venezuela. Later moving back to the U.S., he built a culinary career working in restaurants in San Fransisco and Madrid, Spain before opening Amilinda in 2015, according to its website.

León is up against three other Wisconsin chefs for the regional honor: Francesco Mangano of Osteria Papavero in Madison and Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger of Fairchild in Madison. They beat out Milwaukee’s Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, who were semifinalists.

Remaining finalists in that category are Sanaa Abourezk of Sanaa’s Gourmet Mediterranean of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and David Utterback of Yoshitomo in Omaha, Nebraska.

A James Beard Award is considered among the industry’s most prestigious recognitions of culinary talent. 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. He’s one of just four local chefs to receive the honor, including Sanford D’Amato, Siegel, Paul Bartolotta and Justin Aprahamian.

Winners of this year’s awards will be announced James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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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