Local Food and Cocktails Make James Beard Semifinals


A number of Milwaukee and Madison restaurants and cocktail lounges are being recognized nationally for their culinary talents, including those counted among this year’s James Beard Foundation Award semifinalists.

The James Beard Awards are like the Oscars of the culinary world.

Daniel Bonanno from Madison’s ‘A Pig in a Fur Coat’ has been nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year, putting him up against chefs hailing from Hawaii to New York City. He says he’s honored, and attributes the nomination to his quest for perfection. Bonanno says Wisconsin’s blossoming food scene can be credited to the farm-to-table movement.

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“So now, a lot of chefs are leaving Chicago, going to Milwaukee, Madison and they’re getting closer to the farmers and using fresher products. That’s why Wisconsin’s getting more on the map.”

Madison’s ‘Forequarter’ is a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. Elizabeth Dahl at Nostrano in Madison has been nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef. ‘The Best Chef: Midwest’ semifinalists include the talent at Milwaukee restaurants Sanford and Braise, as well as at Sardine in Madison.

It’s not just food that’s receiving accolades. Madison’s L’Etoile could win Outstanding Wine Program. Also, historic Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee is a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Scene. Proprietor John Dye says he’s thrilled that his craft is being recognized alongside culinary masters.

“With the revitalization of cocktail culture, the rest of the country is starting to see that. In Milwaukee, we’ve always kind of had that and it’s nice because it’s so much part of the tradition.”

Finalists will be narrowed down in March and the awards will be presented in May.