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Six Milwaukee chefs make the cut as James Beard Award semifinalists

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James Beard Foundation; Facebook

Each week on This Bites, dining critic Ann Christenson from Milwaukee Magazine and Radio Milwaukee’s resident foodie Tarik Moody dig into the city’s culinary and restaurant culture to help you find new spots, old favorites and the best ingestibles around Milwaukee.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for award announcements. The Emmys got handed out Jan. 15, Oscar nominations were revealed this past Tuesday, and the James Beard Awards — the Emmys/Oscars of the food world — took their turn Wednesday, announcing this year’s semifinalists.

Winning a Beardie (not its real name) is an incredible honor, and even just landing on the semifinal list is quite an achievement. As it says on the website, the awards “recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”

So, to start this episode, we answer two pressing questions:

  1. Didn’t we just do this, like, a month or two ago?
  2. Who from the Milwaukee area made the semifinals?

It does seem like the James Beard Awards cycle never ends, but that doesn’t detract from how lucky we are to live in a city where the second question is “Who made it?” rather than “Did anyone make it?” Milwaukee has consistently earned this recognition year after year, and 2024 is no different thanks to the following semifinalists:

  • Gregory León from Amilinda for Outstanding Chef
  • Ross Bachhuber and Samuel Ek from Odd Duck for Best Chef – Midwest
  • Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite from EsterEv for Best Chef – Midwest
  • Kyle Knall from Birch for Best Chef – Midwest

That’s six Brew City representatives, and another four from around the state rounded out a very nice showing for Wisconsin as a whole. We still have a couple more hurdles to get over, starting with the finalists being announced April 3 and the winners revealed at the annual awards gala June 10 in Chicago. For now, a big “congrats” to the chefs continuing Milwaukee’s well-deserved reputation as a true food destination.

In other, non-award culinary news from around the city:

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Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee