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Milwaukee chef Dane Baldwin of The Diplomat wins award for best chef in Midwest

Posted at 4:12 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 14:33:28-04

MILWAUKEE — A chef from Milwaukee has just been named the winner of the prestigious James Beard award for the Best Chef in the Midwest.

Chef Dane Baldwin, who owns The Diplomat on Brady Street, was given the award on June 13 during an award ceremony in Chicago. He is the first chef from Milwaukee to win the award since Justin Aprahamian of Sanford won back in 2014. A James Beard award is one of the top honors a chef can win. It's like winning an Oscar as an actor.

"It's incredible. When I’ve used the word incredible in the past, I think that this is the most accurate definition of that word," Baldwin said.

The Diplomat
A view inside The Diplomat located at 815 E. Brady St.

Baldwin was up against five other semifinalists. The others who were nominated included two chefs from Milwaukee: Karen Bell, Bavette La Boucherie, and Gregory Leon, Amilinda. Three Minneapolis chefs were also semifinalists. The Midwest region consists of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

"I had a knife in my hand since I was 15. That’s 25 years, so that’s a great amount of experience that brought me to this point.”

The Diplomat serves up what Balwdin calls "American fare in a shareable plate format." Here is a link to the menu.

Baldwin got his start working in the meat section of a Sendik's when he was just 15. Since then, he has cooked meals in restaurants like Gil's Cafe, Bacchus, Barossa, Carnivor, and Mr. B's Steakhouse. Baldwin never had any formal culinary school training. He learned everything he knows from working in those kitchens and reading cook books. He is definitely a student of the game. He has a collection of at least 30 cookbooks on display in the restaurant with many more at his home.

He always knew cooking was going to his passion. Since he opened his own restaurant in 2017, he has felt like he has been living his dream.

"You know, when we opened The Diplomat, we wanted to open a nice neighborhood restaurant. I've had some really good training and some really good positions in the city of Milwaukee. That’s where I've spent my whole career, so to be able to express that through food that's my own now, is special on its own."

The Diplomat
There is a three-week long wait to get a reservation, but customers can take their chances walking up to the bar area.

While according to the critics and his customers, Baldwin is a pretty good cook. However, when it comes to who is the top chef at home, he has a hard time competing.

"Do (your daughters) like dad's cooking or would they rather have the chicken nuggets?" TMJ4 reporter James Groh asked.

"Oh well, I don’t know. They definitely do the little cross comparison. I think mom wins most of those competitions," he said.

If you're thinking of making a reservation to try the best-chef-in-the-Midwest's cooking, you'll have to wait a bit. There is currently a three-week long wait to get into the restaurant. That means there was hype long before he got the award.

But with the award announcement, it's likely that wait time will increase as people try to get a taste of this award winning food. The restaurant is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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