The annual James Beard Foundation Awards aren’t called “the Oscars of food” for nothing. Since 1990, the awards have celebrated the best of the best in the worlds of food, dining, and culinary writing. Not surprisingly, Milwaukee is no stranger to the awards: 2016 saw Ardent chef Justin Carlisle, c. 1880 chef Thomas Hauck, and Braise chef David Swanson make the list of semifinalists. (Carlisle was also a 2015 semifinalist.) And while none of them managed to make the final cut, a few of them are back for 2017.
Carlisle and Hauck are both included in the just-released list of 2017 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists, are are joined this year by Bavette La Boucherie chef Karen Bell. All three are up for the Best Chef: Midwest award. Also included in this year’s group are Paul and Joe Bartolotta in the Outstanding Restaurateur category.
The finalists will be revealed at a press conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 15. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago on Monday, May 1. Congrats to all the Milwaukee names, and good luck!
The James Beard Foundation holds an online open call for entries beginning in mid-October of each year. This year, over 24,000 entries were received, a list which the Restaurant and Chef Committee reviews to determine eligibility and regional representation. Based on the results and eligibility requirements for each award, the committee then produces a nominating ballot that lists the semifinalists in each of the 21 Restaurant and Chef Award categories, some of which include Outstanding Chef, Outstanding Restaurant, Best Chef in ten different U.S. regions, Outstanding Service, Outstanding Bar Program, and Best New Restaurant.
The list of semifinalists is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country. This panel, which comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners, votes on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees in each category. The same judges then vote on these five nominees to select the winners. Tabulations to determine the nominees and winners are done by independent auditors, Lutz & Carr. The governing Awards Committee, board of trustees, and staff of the James Beard Foundation do not vote, and the results are kept confidential until the presentation of winners in May.