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Three Milwaukee chefs were named semi-finalists this winter, and one passed through to the finalist round. Did Milwaukee score a win?

At Monday night’s 2017 awards ceremony for the James Beard Foundation (held at Chicago’s Lyric Opera), Milwaukee’s Justin Carlisle did not take home the award for Best Midwest Chef. That went to Kevin Nashan, of St. Louis’ Sidney Street Café. Carlisle (of Ardent and Red Light Ramen) has been down this path before, and I suspect we will see his name on the awards ballot next year.

Previously, three Milwaukee chefs were named semifinalists for Best Chef: Midwest: Justin Carlisle (of Ardent), Thomas Hauck (c.1880) and Karen Bell (Bavette La Boucherie), along with Paul and Joe Bartolotta of The Bartolotta Restaurants, for Outstanding Restaurateur. That list was whittled in March to only Justin Carlisle from Milwaukee.

Despite the Milwaukee shutout, the night did yield some intriguing results. New York’s classic French Le Cou Cou was named Best New Restaurant in America, and Stephen Starr (head of Starr Restaurants, including Le Cou Cou) snagged the award for Outstanding Restaurateur. And Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo (next door to his 30-year-old Frontera Grill in Chicago) finally took Outstanding Restaurant honors (an awards the resto had been up for since 2011). 

 

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