Graham Kilmer

Milwaukee Has 9 James Beard Award Semifinalists

Milwaukee restaurants, chefs and restaurateurs among those honored by prestigious awards.

By - Feb 24th, 2022 11:56 am
Odd Duck, 2352 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Odd Duck, 2352 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

After a two-year hiatus, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its prestigious, annual James Beard Awards and nine Milwaukee restaurants, restaurateurs and chefs have made the list.

Some of the names announced today are becoming regulars on the annual awards list, having been named semifinalists several times in recent years. Others are first-timers.

In a press release announcing the winners, the foundation said the awards “recognize exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”

Joe Muench, co-owner and chef of Black Shoe Hospitality, was named a semifinalist in the “Outstanding Restaurateur” category. Black Shoe owns the popular Blue’s Egg on N. 76th St., Maxie’s on W. Fairview Ave. Story Hill BKC on W. Blue Mound Rd. and Buttermint Finer Dining on N. Oakland Ave. in Shorewood. Muench has more than two decades of experience in restaurants in southeastern Wisconsin. His first chef job was sous chef at the former Grenadier’s, and he was previously executive chef at Eddie Martini’s in Wauwatosa.

Kyle Knall, executive chef at Birch, is a semifinalist for “Outstanding Chef.” As Urban Milwaukee has previously reported, “Knall was formerly sous chef at Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan and will bring the farm-to-table focus to the new restaurant. He also served as executive chef at Maysville in New York City and opened Kenton’s in New Orleans before most recently serving as executive chef at New York’s Equinox Hotel and its associated Electric Lemon restaurant.” Birch is located at 459 E. Pleasant St.

Odd Duck has been named for “Outstanding Restaurant”. The restaurant is owned by Melissa Buchholz and Ross Bachhuber. It serves internationally-inspired small plates. It recently closed its restaurant in Bay View temporarily as it moves to a new location in Walker’s Point.

Sanford, at 1547 N. Jackson St., was named a semifinalist for “Outstanding Hospitality.” The restaurant is one of the older establishments on the list of Milwaukee semifinalists, having opened in 1989. It was owned by Sandy and Angie D’Amato until 2012 when the couple sold the restaurant to longtime Chef De Cuisine Justin Aprahamian. The restaurant serves a modern cuisine based on fresh seasonal ingredients.

Goodkind, at 2457 S. Wentworth Ave. in Bay View, is a semifinalist for “Outstanding Bar.” The restaurant opened in 2014 in the former Mama DeMarinis’ space. It offers small plates and rotisserie meats and boasts a menu with award-winning cocktails.

Dane Baldwin is once again on the list of best chef semifinalists for The Diplomat, 815 E. Brady St. This is the third time Baldwin has been a semifinalist in this category, with two previous nominations in 2019 and 2020. The Diplomat does American cuisine in shareable plates. Baldwin has a resume that includes many popular restaurants in Milwaukee and the metro area including Carnevor, Harbor House, Bacchus and Mr. B’s Steakhouse.

Karen Bell of Bavette La Boucherie is a semifinalist for “Best Chef: Midwest.” This marks the fifth time that Bell has been named a semifinalist for this award. The butcher shop and cafe, at 330 E. Menomonee St., opened in 2013 and will relocate to a larger space in the coming year. Bell has previously worked in restaurants around the U.S. and the world. 

Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite have once again been named semifinalists in “Best Chef: Midwest.” The two Dans operate the private, fine-dining EsterEv out of their restaurant DanDan. EsterEv, which is open only to reservations, serves an eight-course tasting menu of dishes inspired by cuisines from around the world. Both Dans have extensive experience cooking restaurants in Milwaukee and around the country.

Gregory León of Spanish and Portuguese inspired restaurant Amilinda, was named a semifinalist in “Best Chef: Midwest,” as well. León has cooked around the world and several San Francisco restaurants. Amilinda began as a pop-up in 2013 and eventually moved into a permanent space at 315 E. Wisconsin Ave. in 2015.

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