By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Feb 27, 2019 at 9:30 AM

The James Beard Awards process for 2019 has begun.

This morning, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its annual awards. And Milwaukee has at least five reasons to be proud, with Wisconsin on the whole giving a great showing.

A Milwaukee classic known nationally for its old-school tipples, Bryant's Cocktail Lounge has made the cut for Outstanding Bar Program.

For the straight third year, Paul and Joe Bartolotta of The Bartolotta Restaurants are up for the Outstanding Restaurateur award. If successful in making it through the finals, it would mark the third Beard award for Chef Paul Bartolotta who holds James Beard awards for both his work at Spiaggia in Chicago and Ristorante di Mare in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, semifinalists for Best Chef Midwest include Dane Baldwin of The Diplomat, Karen Bell of Bavette La Boucherie and Daniel Jacobs and Dan Van Rite for their work at EsterEv.

Bell has now made the list for three years running, with Jacobs and Van Rite taking their second turn in 2019. But this year is a first for Baldwin, who opened his first restaurant, The Diplomat, in 2017.

Jonny Hunter of Forequarter in Madison also made the "long list" for Best Chef Midwest while Chef Tory Miller's L'Etoile is a semifinalist in the category of Outstanding Chef.

View the complete list of semifinalists here.

How the nominations process works

The semifinals process began in October 2018 with an open call, during which anyone could nominate up to two individuals online. Entries received, along with input solicited from an independent volunteer group of more than 250 panelists around the country, were reviewed by the Restaurant and Chef Committee 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.

Semifinalists will now move on to a voting body of more than 600 judges from across the country to determine the final nominees in each category. The same group of judges, which comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Award winners, then votes on the nominees to select the winners.

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.

Save these Dates

On Wednesday, March 27 at 9 a.m., the Foundation will announce the final nominees for all the 50-plus award categories (including chefs, restaurants and media) during a live press conference at James Beard Award winner Hugo Ortega’s namesake Montrose restaurant in Houston, Texas.

Winners of the 2019 James Beard Media Awards will be announced on Friday, April 26 at an exclusive event honoring the nation's top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists at Pier 60 in New York City.

The highly anticipated James Beard Awards ceremony and gala, at which chef and restaurant winners are announced, will follow on Monday, May 6, at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.