By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 05, 2015 at 5:30 AM

Last night, at the 25th annual James Beard Awards in Chicago, Gerard Craft of Niche in St. Louis, was named best chef in the Midwest.

Some might consider this a loss for Milwaukee. Among the finalists for the award were Milwaukee’s own Justin Carlisle, chef and owner of Ardent, a restaurant named a semifinalist for the Nation’s Best New Restaurant Award 2014 after being open only four months.

But, in so many ways, it’s still a win.

Although Carlisle didn’t bring home the prize, his nomination still reflects extremely well on Milwaukee and Wisconsin, which has hosted a variety of James Beard semi-finalists and finalists over the years and continues to produce exceptional cuisine that consistently wins the attention of the James Beard Foundation, as well as other national organizations.

In addition to Sanford D'Amato, Milwaukee chef Adam Siegel of the Bartolotta Restaurants has also won the Beard award. Chefs David Swanson of Braise, Peggy Magister of Crazy Water, Dan Van Rite of Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub and Jan Kelly of Meritage are among those who have been nominated for semi-finals in the past. Even Justin Aprahamian, last year’s Best Chef Midwest Award winner, was nominated four times before achieving his win in 2014. This year, he was among the chefs who cooked for the awards.

In addition to chef-based awards, restaurants like Watts Tea Shop and Three Brothers have brought home the prize for American Classics and Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge was a 2013 Semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.

The James Beard awards, often called the Oscars of the hospitality industry, took place at Lyric Opera in Chicago, before a room full of chefs, other industry professionals and members of the media from across the country.

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.