James Beard’s Best Chef Midwest Category is Down to the Final Five

Expect to hear who wins what the night of May 7.

It might be Pi Day, but a lot of people are thinking in broader food terms today, of chefs, bartenders, food writers and innovators. The James Beard Foundation announced the finalists for the 2018 JBF Awards. 

The big category to zero in on, those of us here in MKE, is Best Chef: Midwest. (But of course, ALL the categories are interesting. For instance, in the Journalism section, under “Humor,” GQ is one of three finalists for best Humor piece for the video, “Trixie Mattel Makes a PB&J (and More Importantly, a Cocktail).” Ms. Mattel has Milwaukee connections.) 

Right, so in terms of local chef recognition, two of our own ‒ Karen Bell of Bavette, and Justin Carlisle of Ardent ‒ have moved up to the position of finalists. The voting process from the batch of 20 semi-finalists eliminated the EsterEv partnership of Dan Van Rite and Dan Jacobs and c. 1880’s Thomas Hauck.

If it isn’t Bell or Carlisle who mounts the stage at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 7, the night the awards are given out, it will be one of three finalists from Minneapolis’ red-hot dining scene: Steven Brown of Tilia, Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable and Ann Kim of Young Joni. You can see all the 2018 nominees here.



Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.