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Let's talk about the diversity in this year's James Beard award winners

Today, we’re talking about a historic year at the James Beard Awards, some last-minute Mother's Day gifts and treats and a new arepa pop-up in Milwaukee.

Each Friday on Radio Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine’s dining critic, Ann Christenson, and 88Nine’s foodie Tarik Moody discuss Milwaukee’s culinary and restaurant culture on This Bites. This Bites is supported by Society Insurance.

Read more and listen to the whole podcast below.

James Beard Awards

This year, with so many firsts, the James Beard Awards rose to their powerful theme of: RISE. According to the Beard Awards, the ceremony on May 7 was about “celebrating the collective spirit of our community and the power of food. Championing causes, speaking up for those who can’t be heard, and cooking their hearts out, our community rises to make this world a better, more delicious place for all.”

The "Oscars of food" finally weren't #sowhite this year or as male-dominated as usual. It seems like the industry is making progress (though it still has a long way to go).

11 of the 15 winning chefs were people of color or women.

Edouardo Jordan added to the historic night with two wins for his Seattle restaurants. He won Best Chef: Northwest for his Italian restaurant Salare and Best New Restaurant for JuneBaby, his ode to the Southern cooking. Jordan is the first black chef to win the Best New Restaurant award.

Also, I got to meet him at a Beard Awards event this year:

Every year at the Beard Awards, he makes these t-shirts. This year, it said "Chitlins," which is a Southern dish that is made from the small intestines of a pig. It's one of his JuneBaby specialties.

Also making history this year for Beard Award diversity was the black, jewish, gay "cooking historian" Michael Twitty, for his book, "The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South.” Twitty was the first Black author to ever win the Beard Foundation’s Cookbook of the Year award.

Another proud win was from Dolester Miles, an African-American woman and pastry chef of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, who won Outstanding Pastry Chef at the James Beard Awards. Give her interview with NPR a listen, she is a true joy.

A native of St. Lucia, Nina Compton won Best Chef South for her restaurant, Compère Lapin. She is the first woman of African descent to win best chef.

And, chef Rodney Scott of Charleston, South Carolina, was recognized for his barbecue pit mastery at FIG restaurant with Best Chef Southeast. He's also the first African-American to win this award.

On a more local scale, the Midwest was representing in a big way.

There were five nominees for Best Chef Midwest: three from the Minneapolis area and two from Milwaukee: Karen Bell of Bavette La Boucherie and Justin Carlisle of Ardent.

The award went to the Minneapolis chef, Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable. With all city rivalry aside, this was well-deserved for the talented chef. In 2008, for his work at Cafe Boulud in New York City, he was named the Beard’s Rising Star Chef of the Year. Now, he's brought his culinary expertise back to the Twin Cities to contribute to the impressive and growing restaurant scene there.

To hear us talk about more 2018 James Beard Award winners and nominees, listen to the full podcast above.

Last-minute Mother's Day ideas

If you haven't gotten reservations for a Mother's Day brunch or dinner yet, you might be out of luck. However, we still have some last minute ideas for how to treat the important women and moms in your life this Sunday. Here's what we're thinking:

Get her a piegram

The pies from Honeypie Bakery are made in small-batches, from scratch with locally sourced dairy, eggs, fruits and other ingredients. Honeypie is doing sweet little handmade mini pies, boxed up and served with a hand screened-printed card for you to tell your mama how much you love her.  Walk-ins and picks ups available Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13, though you should probably call or email ahead to order. Their special pies will include: Key Lime, Classic Chocolate Cream, Stawberry Lavender and Door County Cherry Berry.

Take her to Miss Molly's

It should be easy to get into Miss Molly's on Sunday with your mom to get a light breakfast in this cafe and bakery. Besides their delicious menu, they also have a sake bloody mary.

Bring her a batch of Batches

Batches in the Third Ward is doing pies, quiches, cupcakes and tons of breads and pastries. You can't go wrong with a box full of goodies from this bakery.

Arepera pop-up

Amilinda is hosting an arepa pop-up, well kind of. It's more of a semi-permanent lunch special.
Arepera MKE is a pop-up restaurant by Daniela León, the Venezuelan cousin of one of Amilinda's owners. She will sell several kinds of arepas, filled with shredded beef, black beans with feta or chicken and avocado salad (reina pepiada).

They'll be open for lunch Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays downtown, starting this Monday.

Arepera MKE will open at 11 a.m. and close at 1:30 p.m., or sooner if the arepas sell out.


P.S., if you are a chef or a restaurant and have a food-related announcement or event, please send us any information or press release to

Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee