The James Beard Foundation Is Loving on Milwaukee

Three of the six finalists for Best Chef: Midwest are hometown favorites.

So the James Beard Awards for 2022 are down to the final nominees. And Milwaukee is showing up loud and proud in the Best Chef: Midwest category. The nominees have been whittled down to six and they include Karen Bell of Bavette La Boucherie, Gregory León of Amilinda and Dane Baldwin of The Diplomat. Mark your calendars: The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony held Monday, June 13 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

Both Bell and Baldwin were part of our March cover story, “Chef Talk,” featuring a lively convo between a group of prominent Milwaukee chefs on diverse topics related to our dining scene.

Background-wise, these chefs have rather diverse resumes. Baldwin, who started his career at age 15 working in the butcher shop of Sendik’s in Whitefish Bay, has cooked everywhere from the former Gil’s Cafe on Downer to The Bartolotta Restaurants’ Harbor House.

Long before opening Bavette, Bell owned a restaurant in Madrid called Memento. After returning to her MKE hometown, she worked as a consultant for various local restaurants including Cafe at the Plaza.

And León, a native of Tulsa, Okla. who lived part of his childhood in his father’s home country of Venezuela, spent 18 in San Francisco working in and consulting for restaurants before moving to the Midwest. 

June 13 can not come soon enough.






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.