Sophie Bolich

Lupi & Iris, Chef Gregory León Are James Beard Finalists

Milwaukee restaurant and chef advance to finals in two categories of 2023 awards.

By - Mar 29th, 2023 02:17 pm
Amilinda. Photo taken June 15th, 2021 by Jeramey Jannene.

Amilinda. Photo taken June 15th, 2021 by Jeramey Jannene.

Two Milwaukee chefs and restaurants have advanced as finalists for the 2023 James Beard Awards. The lineup was announced Wednesday morning, narrowing a pool of more than 400 semifinalists to just 120 finalists.

Milwaukee’s Lupi & Iris will represent the city in the Best New Restaurant category, while Gregory León, head chef and owner of Amilinda, is among the finalists for Best Chef: Midwest.

Lupi & Iris, 777 N. Van Buren St., opened in May, 2022, serving French and Italian-inspired cuisine. The fine-dining restaurant is led by a partnership of real estate developer Michael DeMichele and former Bartolotta Restaurants executive chef Adam Siegel, who won a James Beard award for Best Chef: Midwest in 2008.

León expanded his talents at restaurants across the globe before opening Amilinda, 315 E. Wisconsin Ave., in 2015. Prior to that, he operated the Spanish and Portuguese-inspired restaurant as a pop-up starting in 2013.

León was a semifinalist in last year’s awards, also for Best Chef: Midwest. The category covers Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Other states commonly considered part of the Midwest — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio — instead form the foundation’s Great Lakes region.

Six other Milwaukee nominees, including Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite of EsterEv and Amy KersteinJason KersteinJoe Muench and Dan Sidner of Black Shoe Hospitality did not advance in their respective categories.

The prestigious James Beard Awards returned in 2022 after a two-year hiatus — initially related to the pandemic, but later extended amid backlash concerning a lack of diversity among the nominees. The 2023 awards mark the second year since the foundation implemented changes in the wake of a 2021 audit to address biases in the awards process.

This year’s awards also feature a new category for Outstanding Bakery.

Winners will be celebrated at the 32nd James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Tickets for the event go on sale March 31 at 4 p.m., and can be purchased online and range in price from $500 to $3,500.

Last year, Dane Baldwin of The Diplomat815 E. Brady St., took home the award for best chef in the Midwest.

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