Michael Holloway

Meet Wisconsin’s James Beard Semifinalists

Milwaukee's chefs continue to be recognized by the James Beard Awards.

By - Mar 13th, 2020 11:38 am
Karen Bell. Photo by Peggy Schulz.

Karen Bell. Photo by Peggy Schulz.

The James Beard Foundation recently released the names of the semifinalists for its 30th Annual James Beards Awards and four Wisconsin chef’s made the cut.

Three of the four have been nominated in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Karen Bell, owner of Bavette La Boucherie (330 E. Menominee St.), has been nominated for the fourth year in a row in this category. In 2017 and 2019, she made it the semifinals, and proceeded to the finals in 2018. Before Bell opened Bavette, she worked in Chicago, San Francisco, Paris, Caracas and ran a restaurant of her own in Madrid, Spain.

Dane Baldwin, executive chef and owner of The Diplomat (815 E. Brady St.), has been nominated for the second year in a year for this category. Baldwin previously cut his teeth as Chef de Cuisine at Carnivore Steakhouse Moderne (718 N. Milwaukee St.). He discovered his love for the culinary arts working at Sendik’s, and eventually worked his way up to owning a restaurant of his own.

Sean Pharr, chef and co-owner of Madison-based Mint Mark, is up for his first ever James Beard nomination. Before opening Mint Mark, an American small-plates restaurant on Madison’s East Side (1929 Winnebago St.), he worked at several highly-regarded Chicago restaurants such as The Bristol and NoMI.

Paul Bartolotta, an internationally celebrated chef known for starting The Bartolotta Restaurant group (Ristorante Bartolotta, Harbor House, Lake Park Bistro, and more) with his late brother Joe Bartolotta, has been nominated for Best Restaurateur. This is the fourth time Bartolotta has been nominated for that category. He has already won two James Beard Awards for Best Chef in 1994 for his work at Spiaggia in Chicago and again in 2009 for his work at Ristorante di Mare in Las Vegas.

The finalists for the 30th Annual James Beard Awards will be announced on March 25. The nominees for the James Beard Foundation’s Media and Restaurant Design Awards will also be announced. The announcements will start rolling in at 9:00 a.m., those interested in watching can catch them on the foundation’s website or follow along on twitter.

The award ceremony for the winners, the 2020 James Beard Awards Gala, was originally set to take place on May 4 at the Lyrics Opera of Chicago. However, the foundation has announced that due to rising concerns over the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, it has been postponed until summer. The postponement also includes the James Beard Media Awards (originally scheduled for April 24 in New York City) and the Leadership Awards (originally scheduled for May 3 in Chicago).

The James Beard Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on celebrating the names in the restaurant industry that continue to push America’s diverse culinary landscape. The organization’s namesake, James Beard, was named “Dean of American Cookery” by the New York Times in 1954. A pioneer of food TV that is so common today, Beard appeared on the first ever televised cooking show in 1946. He went on to write the first ever cocktail-food cookbook in 1940, and opened a culinary arts school called the James Beard Cooking School in 1955. He died at the age of 81 in 1985. The James Beard Foundation was established a year later, and the first ever James Beard Awards were handed out in 1991.

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