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Milwaukee and Madison chefs celebrated with James Beard nominations

todayJanuary 25, 2024

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Syovata “Vata” Edari of CocoVaa nominated for James Beard’s Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker

Today, the James Beard Foundation revealed the semifinalist nominees for the 2024 James Beard Awards. Known as the “Oscars of the food world,” these prestigious awards are the industry’s highest honor to celebrate chefs and restaurants of the year.

The long list named Madison-based chocolatier Syovata “Vata” Edari for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker for CocoVaa. Additionally, in Milwaukee, Chef Gregory León of Amilinda was nominated in the national category of Outstanding Chef.

Edari and León are no strangers to being awarded for their culinary mastery and community accomplishments. Once a successful attorney, Edari was named a Wisconsin “Super Lawyer” in 2020, but she walked away from the courtroom to pursue her sweeter passion for chocolate, studying in Italy and France. Edari founded CocoVaa in 2016 and has since won many international awards for her stunning chocolates—in 2018, the Academy of Chocolate in the U.K. named her an international rising star, and in 2019 and 2020, she awarded her chocolate as well. León was also nominated in 2022 and 2023 for Best Chef Midwest.

Other Wisconsin-based nominates include:

Nominations for Best Chef Midwest represent talent from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The 2024 semifinalist list has several Wisconsin connections:  

Finalists for the James Beard Awards will be announced on April 3, and the awards will be presented at a ceremony on June 10 at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.


Written by: Rae Johnson

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