Dane Baldwin is the chef and owner of The Diplomat in Milwaukee's Lower East Side neighborhood, and the 2022 James Beard Foundation's Best Chef in the Midwest. Bringing approachable American fare with flare, Baldwin shares his thoughts on what makes the city's culinary landscape so unique.


Describe the Milwaukee food scene in general?

There is an apparent variety in what the Milwaukee food scene has to offer and the backbone is that of the proprietor. There is a rich collective of independent restaurants, food trucks and other concepts driven by heart and soul. The layers of what can be discovered within these concepts is worth discovering. 


Dane Baldwin in a booth at The Diplomat


What’s new and exciting about it? 

The unveiling of what we already know, what the city has to offer in regards to hospitality and how great it is. Milwaukee seems to be getting more attention than ever, from conventions, national write ups and celebrities leaving their hotel rooms to enjoy what the city has to offer. I'm sure many visitors leave feeling like they wished they would have set aside more time. Well, in the name of midwestern hospitality we'll always welcome you back.


Where do you like to eat in Milwaukee?

For breakfast I would say, Cafe at the Plaza and Jo's Cafe or Rocket Baby if I'm on the go. Dinner could provide a whole array of choices, Goodkind, La Casa De Alberto, Ristorante BARTOLOTTA dal 1993, Bavette La Boucherie (great for lunch too!) to name a few. Quick, honestly grabbing a dozen donuts from Cranky Al's is probably the quickest run in our routine, don't worry the line is long but it does move quick. Dessert for us is often custard and we don't have a lack of choices when that comes up. Anna being from Bay View is a Leon's person and me, I'm team Kopp's and when we can't agree we have to settle on Gilles' boohoo, *wink, wink*. 


What are the must-visit farmer's markets?

The Farmers markets that we frequent the most are West Allis Farmers Market and South Shore Farmers Market, those are our where everybody knows your name markets.


The Diplomat Interior Shot


What is a can't miss dish on the Diplomat menu?

Our menu does change as often as the offerings of the season will provide, but there are some mainstays. Our house burger 'The Diplomac' has developed a following of it's own and it is on the menu year round. We are also known for our Peanut Butter Pie and Knife and Fork Chicken (a whole chicken paillard with seasonal sides).


How did you come up with the name Diplomat? 

As I was searching for a name to call our concept to be, I blurted it out, 'The Diplomat' and it made the list of many. As we looked into what it meant to be a diplomat, we felt we were suited to represent what Milwaukee has to offer. I am born and raised here and a product of the culinary scene with a long standing career in my hometown. 


Anything else you'd like to share? 

Yes, I think it's great to have such a variety of experiences to choose from in Milwaukee. What goes along with that, that should be mentioned, is accessibility! You can make it almost anywhere in the city in 20 minutes or less, pretty nice when you have road to travel. 


Watch episode three of Bravo's "Top Chef", featuring Dane Baldwin as a guest judge.