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Before They Were Stars: The Humble Beginnings of James Beard Award Winners

Before They Were Stars: The Humble Beginnings of James Beard Award Winners

The James Beard Awards are a distinction that reigns supreme in the American culinary world. It has become the Oscars of the food industry; a Who’s Who of the restaurant elite; an indication of who really has a finger on the pulse of dining trends.

However, even culinary giants had to start somewhere. With the James Beard Awards celebrating its 25th anniversary, we took a look back at the humble roots of some of this year’s award winners and at what point they started their path to that esteemed medal.

Gerard Craft – Best Chef: Midwest
Where were you 25 years ago?
25 years ago, I was 11 and I don’t know what I was doing when I was 11. Riding some bikes. I was eating Pacman pasta, which was pretty much Spaghetti-Os, but in the shape of Pacman.

Jim Lahey – Outstanding Baker
Where were you 25 years ago?
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Working on paying the rent, surviving, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

When did your path to becoming a James Beard Award Winner begin?
I would say when they came up with a category for which I was able to be nominated. [This is the first year the Outstanding Baker category was awarded]. I guess, really, when I found out I was a finalist. Otherwise I was just nominated, which I was shocked I was nominated as a semifinalist, and even more shocked when I was a finalist.

Jessica Largely – Rising Star Chef of the Year
Where were you 25 years ago?
25 years ago, I was 4 years old, probably teasing one of my sisters.

When did your path to becoming a James Beard Award Winner begin?
About a year after that when I was like 5, I started cooking, and then that’s just what I always wanted to do my whole life.

Shelley Lindgren, A16 – Outstanding Wine Program
Where were you 25 years ago?
Good question – I was actually working in the restaurant business, and I was a server, and I was still learning. Back then, I worked for fine dining, but we didn’t have a sommelier on the floor, so I felt like knowing the wines was part of our responsibility, as well as service. So my mentors at that time were chefs, but I was also, without knowing it, learning about my foundation of wine as I was spending time with people. I remember back then in the 80s, I’m an 80s girl at heart anyway, but I had big, fluffy hair, and I remember my first wonderful letter. They were like, ‘[It was] the server with the fluffy hair!’

When did your path to becoming a James Beard Award Winner begin?
Having that foundation of a wine and service background, and then through that, realizing that the stories of wines of Italy are so varied and passionate and not told, and I wanted to be a person to help tell that story. I fell in love with it; I went there and visited and they deserve it. I’m an ambassador for them – they do the work, I just get to share the story.

Barry Maiden – Best Chef: Northeast
Where were you 25 years ago?
I was probably 14, not quite worried about the real world yet. I didn’t start cooking until I was 16, so I was on the cusp.

When did your path to becoming a James Beard Award Winner begin?
I would say when I moved to Boston back in 1999 or 2000 after I graduated culinary school. I started working for some really high-caliber chefs, and I knew that I was on the right path to enjoy some success if I worked hard enough for it.

Jason Stanhope – Best Chef: Southeast
Where were you 25 years ago?
25 years ago, I was 7 years old in Topeka, Kansas, and I was probably playing baseball or swimming in the pool or picking on my little brother who’s here today. People are always like, ‘Oh my God, your parents must be the greatest cooks’ and actually we were so busy, they just made sure that we ate together, but what we ate wasn’t as important as just eating it together, so the ritual of eating and the communal aspect of it was always just driven into my head.

When did your path to becoming a James Beard Award Winner begin?
Well, the start was definitely in Kansa City with Debbie Gold at 40 Sardines, that’s where I knew I wanted to do what I’m doing now. I had a meal while I was [working] at 40 Sardines, probably 9 years ago at Daniel, and the service and the food, everything was so intoxicating, that was my lightbulb moment.

Blaine Wetzel – Best Chef: Northwest
Where were you 25 years ago?
[His father answers] Well, that would be the picture on my refrigerator where you have spaghetti sauce all over your face.

When did your path to becoming a James Beard Award Winner begin?
I got a job right out of high school at the Phoenetian Hotel. That was a really nice place to work and really inspired me to keep on in my career.

The best Los Angeles cookbooks of 2020

Your guide to new tomes from Nancy Silverton, David Chang and more.

By Stephanie Breijo Posted: Thursday December 17 2020 , 2:09 PM

This was&mdashto put it nicely&mdasha year for spending time indoors, and as we ran through our stocks of dried beans and canned chickpeas and tried (and failed) our hand at baking sourdough, we wondered just how professional chefs do it. Thankfully some of the best in L.A. clued us in with hundreds of tips and cooking tricks.

Cocktail pros, James Beard Award winners, food hosts, and even an action star turned taco authority all released stellar cookbooks this year to help level up the time we spend in our own kitchens. Nancy Silverton&rsquos meat palace chi SPACCA showed us how to perfectly sear a steak and char our vegetables. Café Gratitude&rsquos affirmation-based, totally vegan samosa chaat can finally be ours at home. Apotheke&rsquos botanical cocktails helped trick us into drinking nutritional elixirs with our booze.

Whether you&rsquore still hunting for holiday gifts or shopping for yourself, L.A.&rsquos best cookbooks of 2020 are sure to help in 2021 and far beyond&mdashafter all, there&rsquos so much more than sourdough to master.

Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Wyatt Conlon


Stapleton was born in Lexington, [12] Kentucky. His mother, Carol J. (Mace) Stapleton, worked at the local health department and his father, Herbert Joseph Stapleton, Jr. (1946–2013), [13] [14] was a coal miner. He comes from a family of coal miners. [15] [16] He has an older brother, Herbert Joseph III and younger sister, Melanie Brooke. [17] [18]

Stapleton grew up in the small town of Staffordsville, Kentucky, which is located just outside of Paintsville, located between the city and the Paintsville Lake. [15] He graduated from Johnson Central High School where he played football and was his class salutatorian. He then attended Vanderbilt University, where he studied engineering, but dropped out after a year. [19] [20]

Career beginnings and bands Edit

In 2001, Stapleton moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a music career. As a songwriter, he signed with the publishing house Sea Gayle Music, a deal he got shortly after moving to Nashville. [21]

In 2007, he became the frontman for the bluegrass group The Steeldrivers. They had two hit records each peaked at number 2 on the bluegrass chart before Stapleton left in 2010. [22]

In 2010, Stapleton founded a Southern rock band called The Jompson Brothers. [23] The band was made up of Stapleton on vocals, Greg McKee on guitar, J.T. Cure on bass, Bard McNamee on drums. They toured regionally until 2013 and at one point, opened for the Zac Brown Band. [24] The band independently released a self-titled album in November 2010. [25]

In 2013, Stapleton signed to Mercury Nashville, a division of Universal Music Group Nashville, as a solo artist. [3] [4] His first single, "What Are You Listening To?", was released in October 2013, but did not perform as expected. [26] The single was part of a record that was recorded but never released. [27] Stapleton also cowrote the theme—"All-Nighter Comin'"—to the WSM-AM show, The WSM All Nighter with Marcia Campbell, an American radio show with a large trucker following. He cowrote the song with Vince Gill and Al Anderson, with Gill featured on vocals on the track. [28] Songs written by Stapleton have been included on to the soundtracks of several feature films, including Valentine's Day, [29] Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, [30] and Hell or High Water. [31]

In 2013, Stapleton and his wife Morgane sang the Waylon Jennings song, "Amanda", live at the Grand Ole Opry. [32] They also did an NPR Tiny Desk Concert in November 2015. [33]

At the 2014 CMT Artist of the Year event, Stapleton performed with Lady A, who played Stapleton's song, "Drink a Beer", which Luke Bryan had recorded, in honor of Bryan, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to a death in his family. [34] Stapleton had previously sung it during Bryan's 2013 CMA Awards performance of the same song. [26]

Solo studio albums Edit

Stapleton's debut solo album, Traveller, was released on May 5, 2015. [35] [36] Recorded in Nashville's RCA Studio A, Stapleton co-produced the album with producer Dave Cobb. [37] On the album he plays guitar and sings with a live band that is made up of bass player J.T. Cure (from The Jompson Brothers), pedal steel player Robby Turner, drummer Derek Mixon, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, and wife Morgane Stapleton singing harmonies. [38] Stapleton emphasized the importance of the band lineup that came together during the making and promotion of the record, saying the familiarity he had with Cure and Mixon (he has known and played with Cure for over 20 years), plus Cobb's producing which included contributing acoustic guitar in the recording process, added to the richness of making the record. [39]

Stapleton said that the album was inspired by a cross-country road trip he took after his father died in 2013. [40] He said he wrote the title track "Traveller" while on a road trip with his wife, driving down Interstate 40 from Phoenix, Arizona, to Nashville via New Mexico. [28] His wife helped him to sift through 15 years worth of songs to pick 9 songs to start recording with. [41]

Stapleton won three awards at the 2015 Country Music Association Awards: Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. [42] At the CMA Awards, Stapleton performed with Justin Timberlake his version of the song popularized as a David Allen Coe live-show staple, "Tennessee Whiskey" and Timberlake's "Drink You Away". [43] Considered a career-defining moment by music publications, [44] [45] the performance along with his wins that night lifted him to national prominence. [46] In December 2015, Stapleton received the 2015 CMT Artists of the Year Breakout award during a live performance at the annual CMT Artists of the Year show. [47] [48] [49] Traveller was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and won the categories Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance. [50] It also won the Academy of Country Music Award for Album of the Year. [51] The top selling country album of 2016, [52] it has sold a total of 2 million copies domestically as of July 2017 [update] . [53]

In 2016, Stapleton – along with his wife Morgane – contributed the track, "You Are My Sunshine", to producer Dave Cobb's compilation record project, Southern Family. [54] [55] He collaborated with Jake Owen on the song "If He Ain't Gonna Love You" on Owen's album American Love. [56] Stapleton performed on the main stage at the 2016 Country to Country festival in Europe along with Andrew Combs, Kacey Musgraves and headliner Eric Church. Stapleton was the musical guest on the Saturday Night Live episode which aired January 16, 2016, alongside host Adam Driver. He performed "Parachute" and "Nobody to Blame" from Traveller. [57]

In January 2016, Stapleton performed "Either Way", a song he wrote with Kendall Marvel and Tim James, at the Country Radio Hall of Fame's Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. It was previously recorded by Lee Ann Womack for her 2008 album, Call Me Crazy. [58] The track would be featured on his second studio album From A Room: Volume 1. Released on May 5, 2017, [59] Volume 1 takes its name from Nashville's RCA Studio A, where it was recorded during the winter of 2016–17. [60] The same month he embarked on his All-American Road Show Tour. [61] Volume 1 was certified gold in the US the next month, eventually giving Stapleton his second CMA for Album of the Year, [62] and became the best-selling country album of the year. [63] His third studio album From A Room: Volume 2 was released on December 1, 2017. [64] Both albums Volume 1 and Volume 2 debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 charts. [65]

Stapleton was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live for a second time on January 27, 2018, where he performed songs from From a Room: Volume 2 with Sturgill Simpson. [66] In March, "Broken Halos" off From A Room: Volume 1 reached the top of the Country Airplay chart. [67] It earned him the accolades for Song and Single of the Year at the 52nd CMAs, while he won Male Vocalist of the Year for a fourth time. [68]

On August 28, 2020, Stapleton released a single titled "Starting Over", a song he previously performed on tour. It is the lead single from his album of the same name and marks his first single since 2018's "Millionaire". [69] He then released a second single, "Cold" on September 25, 2020, to further promote the project. [70]

Other projects and collaborations Edit

Stapleton co-wrote three songs for Justin Timberlake's studio album Man of the Woods (2018), including their collaboration "Say Something", which reached the top ten list on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. [71] [72] In the same year, Stapleton also recorded a cover of "I Want Love" for Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. [73]

Stapleton appeared as an extra in "The Long Night", the third episode of the eighth season of Game of Thrones. [74]

On August 6, 2019, John Mayer invited Stapleton onstage at his concert to perform a song they had both written the day before, titled "I Just Remembered That I Didn't Care" that has yet to receive a studio release. He stayed onstage afterwards for a performance of Mayer's "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room". [75]

Over the course of 2019 and 2020, Stapleton recorded and wrote songs with Mike Campbell, formerly the guitarist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who is now working with his solo project The Dirty Knobs. In addition to Campbell and fellow Heartbreaker Benmont Tench having played on Stapleton's album Starting Over, Stapleton also featured on the Dirty Knobs' album, Wreckless Abandon. [76]

Stapleton's musical influences range from outlaw country and bluegrass to rock and roll and blues. [77] Editors from NPR and Paste magazine described his sound as a blend of country, classic rock and Southern soul. [78] [79] Before going solo, Stapleton led the progressive bluegrass band The SteelDrivers and the rock and roll band The Jompson Brothers. [80] His first solo album Traveller is an old-school country, Southern rock and bluegrass record, [81] [82] and his second From A Room: Volume 1 focuses on country, blues and roots rock. [83] He played the acoustic guitar and electric guitar for both albums. [84] [85]

Stapleton is a soul singer [86] with a tenor vocal range. After attending one of his concerts in 2015, Los Angeles Times ' writer Randy Lewis opined his singing recalls "the note-bending style of country that traces to Merle Haggard and Lefty Frizzell and the gut-wrenching expressionism of blues and R&B perfected by Ray Charles", while his guitar performances elicits "memories of Texas blues rocker Stevie Ray Vaughan." [5] Stapleton has cited Charles, Otis Redding and Freddie King as some of his music influences, [87] [88] along with Kentucky-based country artists, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam and Patty Loveless: "the list goes on and on. Those names are just part of life in Kentucky. You can't help but be aware of them and be influenced by them." [12]

Stapleton is married to singer-songwriter Morgane Stapleton, who co-wrote Carrie Underwood's 2006 single "Don't Forget to Remember Me". [16] [89] [90] She had a recording deal with Arista Nashville. [91] The couple met when they were working at adjacent publishing houses and married in 2007. [39] They have five children and live in Nashville. [11] In October 2017, the couple announced they were expecting twins. [92] On April 15, 2018, (Stapleton's 40th birthday), host Reba McEntire announced live on the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards that twin boys had been born to the Stapletons. [93] At his concert at Madison Square Garden on November 2, 2018, Stapleton announced that he and his wife were expecting their fifth child he repeated the announcement at the Country Music Association awards on November 18, 2018. On April 28, 2019, he appeared as an extra in the HBO series Game of Thrones episode "The Long Night" as a wight. [94] On May 12, 2019, Morgane and Chris welcomed their fifth child, a baby boy, into their family. He also had a dog named Maggie, which appears on his latest release "Starting Over".

Stapleton has received numerous awards and nominations. He is the recipient of five Grammy Awards, [95] [96] seven Academy of Country Music Awards, [97] ten Country Music Association Awards, [40] [98] five Billboard Music Awards, [99] [100] two iHeartRadio Music Awards, [101] [102] among others. For his work as composer he has received nine ASCAP Country awards, including the Vanguard Award. [103]

Scholarship Spotlight

Chef Randie Anderson considers cooking to be part of his heritage. Rising from humble beginnings on a farm in Jamaica, Anderson cut his teeth in the kitchens of some of the island&rsquos top hotels before assuming his current position as the executive chef of Montego Bay Convention Centre. After receiving one of our 2015 JBF Scholarships, Anderson is using the funds to pursue a master&rsquos degree in gastronomic tourism from Le Cordon Bleu. We spoke with Anderson about his inspiration, his studies, and why gastronomic tourism is so valuable.

JBF: How did it feel to win the James Beard Foundation Scholarship?

Randie Anderson: Winning the James Beard Foundation Scholarship was like having Her Royal Highness, Queen of England, bestowing Knighthood upon me. To date this is my most honorable achievement.

JBF: What stood out about the Le Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomic Tourism that made you choose to study it?

RA: Le Cordon Bleu has always stood out to me as the premier institution for culinary education. While doing my research on how I could further my education to advance my career, the Le Cordon Bleu Masters of Gastronomic Tourism struck me as a course of study that seemed tailored specifically for me.

JBF: Have you always known what you wanted to do? When was the moment you realized you wanted to work with food?

RA: Throughout high school I wanted to be an architect or civil engineer, although I
had a love for and knowledge of food. I grew up in a peasant family in a farming community. We were self-sufficient&mdashwe ate what we grew and grew what we ate&mdash so growing up, I had to do chores that included preparing food from farm to table. So I consider my relationship to food as hereditary. Where I am today is just a continuation of my inheritance and my inherent passion.

When I was in high school, no one ever said they wanted to be a chef. It was usually a doctor, lawyer, engineer, banker, etc. We thought that a chef was just a dude who wears a Pillsbury Doughboy hat with a curly moustache, stirring a pot of sauce. It was only when I came to the U.S. after graduating from high school that I realized that a chef can actually be a well-respected, important person!

JBF: What were the keys to your career advancement?

RA: The keys to my career advancement have been my passion and dedication to the culinary arts. My cooking not only makes others happy, but it makes me happy, too. The great Bob Marley said, &ldquoWhen music hits you, you feel no pain&rdquo&mdashand when cooking hits me, I feel no pain. I got where I am today through hard work and dedication to my career. There have been many challenges, but the key is to not quit. When the challenges push at me, I push back harder.

JBF: What do you think distinguishes gastronomic tourism from normal tourism?

RA: I have always asked: &ldquoTake away the food and beverage from this facility or region and what are you left with?&rdquo The answer is usually &ldquonothing&rdquo or &ldquonothing that you can&rsquot get anywhere else.&rdquo

JBF: If you had one piece of advice for a new student, what would it be?

RA: When you&rsquore challenged by your work or studies, push back harder. Le Cordon Bleu has an excellent support system and someone is always there to hold your hand and give you the support you need to be successful and strong.

Hawaiian Airlines Announces First Executive Chef Team, New Members of Onboard Featured Chef Series

Hawaiian Airlines today announced the appointment of husband-and-wife team Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, owners of Honolulu’s MW Restaurant and Artizen, as its executive chefs. Together, they will oversee menus from the carrier’s popular onboard Featured Chef Series, as well as curate First Class meals for inbound flights from the U.S. mainland and all cabin menus for flights between Hawaiʻi and Japan, Australia and New Zealand and outbound flights to South Korea.

“After participating in the Featured Chef Series for nearly five years, it was an honor to be offered the role of executive chef,” Ueoka said. “Michelle and I are excited about the opportunity to share our passion for food on a global scale and look forward to welcoming Hawaiian’s guests with new menus that represent our home.”

Karr-Ueoka, one of Hawaiʻi’s premier pastry chefs, was born and raised in Honolulu. While attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, she discovered a love for cooking after working at Alan Wong’s Restaurant. Karr-Ueoka attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and later worked at various award-winning restaurants, including Daniel and Per Se in New York, and The French Laundry in Napa Valley. In over a decade as a pastry chef, she has been recognized as a semi-finalist of the James Beard Award and received the Rising Star Chef Award as a pastry chef.

“I have flown Hawaiian Airlines since I was a child, so as a chef, it’s very exciting to think that I now have the opportunity to design its in-flight meals,” said Karr-Ueoka. “Wade and I can’t wait to get started as Hawaiian’s first executive chef duo and husband-and-wife team.”

December 2020 – May 2021: Robynne Maii, Fête
First Class – Hawaiʻi to U.S. mainland

Born and raised in Honolulu, Chef Robynne Maii began her culinary adventure at 3660 on the Rise and Padovani’s Bistro and Wine Bar on Oʻahu. In 1999, she moved to New York City, where she worked at Union Pacific and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in its pastry banquet kitchen. Robynne worked for Gourmet magazine, City University of New York (CUNY), and has been a cookbook judge for the James Beard Foundation Awards since 2004. In 2015, Maii and her husband opened Fête in Honolulu’s bustling Chinatown. In 2018, Maii partnered with Hawaiian to debut LunchBox by Fête, a café-style restaurant at the airline’s Honolulu headquarters.

June – November 2021: Dell Valdez, Vein at Kakaʻako
First Class – Hawaiʻi to U.S. mainland

Chef Dell Valdez is the executive chef at Vein at Kakaʻako, specializing in modern Mediterranean cuisine. Valdez, a Maui native, was raised by immigrant parents who instilled in him a hard work ethic and mantra of “treating everyone as you would want to be treated.” He first learned to cook at home alongside his mother, who he calls his “greatest influence.” In 2000, he graduated from the culinary program at Kapiʻolani Community College.

December 2021 – May 2022: Jason Yamaguchi, Mugen Waikiki
First Class – Hawaiʻi to U.S. mainland

Chef Jason Yamaguchi was born in Los Angeles and raised on Oʻahu. Yamaguchi’s passion for food was sparked in high school when he worked under James Beard Award-winning Chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Restaurants. Over two decades, Yamaguchi built his portfolio as a tastemaker while working under the watchful eye of respected chefs on the U.S. West Coast, including James Beard Award-winning, Michelin-starred Chef Michael Mina and Hawaiʻi’s own Chris Garnier of Roy’s Restaurants. Now residing in Honolulu, Yamaguchi is the executive chef of Mugen Waikiki, known for its French-Japanese cuisine.

June – November 2022: Chris Kajioka, Miro Kaimuki
First Class – Hawaiʻi to U.S. mainland

Chef Chris Kajioka was born and raised in Honolulu and began his culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He has worked at prominent restaurants across the country, including Ron Siegel’s Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton and Mourad Lahlou’s Aziza in San Francisco, California, and Thomas Keller’s iconic Per Se in New York. In 2012, Kajioka returned to Hawaiʻi to become the executive chef of Vintage Cave, where he received his first James Beard Foundation nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2014. In 2016, he partnered with Chef Anthony Rush to open his first restaurant, Senia, where he received several James Beard nominations. Kajioka is currently chef and co-owner of Miro Kaimuki and Bar Māze in Honolulu.

2016 – 2022: Chang-Wook Chung, Kumsan Restaurant
All Cabins – Seoul to Hawai‘i

Chef Chung, a featured chef since 2016, will continue his tenure on flights from South Korea. An expert in French and Japanese cuisine, he is the owner and chef of Kumsan Noodle Factory in Seoul. His culinary excellence has been widely recognized, and he has appeared in several Korean television programs. Feeling a strong personal attachment to Hawai’i, Chung has returned to the islands every year since his first visit over a decade ago.

Chef Eric Oto of Hoku’s at The Kahala Hotel & Resort recently completed his second menu cycle (June – November 2020) for inbound flights from U.S. mainland since joining the Featured Chef Series in 2018. His passion for the culinary arts began at the age of four when he caught his first fish with a bamboo cane pole. At a young age, Oto learned the philosophies of respecting and appreciating Hawai‘i’s food ecosystem from his father, a lifelong farmer and fisherman. Today, Oto’s reverence for the ocean can be seen — and tasted — in his cooking. Committed to supporting Hawai‘i’s next generation of chefs, Oto serves as a chef-mentor for local high school students with the Hawai‘i Culinary Education Foundation and the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeune Chef Competition.

Other former participating chefs have included Mark Noguchi of Pili Group, Jon Matsubara of FEAST, Andrew Le of The Pig & The Lady, and Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof Maui. Chai Chaowasaree of Chef Chai Restaurant was Hawaiian’s first executive chef from 2010 to 2018.


Minneapolis is home to one of the country’s largest indoor rock climbing gyms. Housed in a historic Ice House building, Vertical Endeavors has nearly 28,000 square feet of climbing walls, some reaching 60 feet in height. Yikes! First-timers can rent equipment and take a lesson.

Photo Credit: Vertical Endeavors

11 A Fan of the show started A Huge Fire

There doesn't really need to be a disclaimer on Forged in Fire, right? People should have enough common sense to know that without the proper techniques, tools, and training, they shouldn't attempt to forge weapons out of their homes. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

John Gomes liked the show. He liked it so much that he decided to forge a sword in his own backyard. It took firefighters the better part of six hours to quell a fire caused by his attempt. The fire burned through almost 30 buildings, leaving as many people displaced in Cohoes, New York.

Gomes' public defender said "this is just a terrible, unfortunate accident, but it's not a crime." Still, he was charged with fourth degree arson and reckless endangerment. The lesson here? Don't try this at home.

Beverage Trends

By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, Drinks Editor

The world of alcoholic beverages continues to shift, guided both implicitly and explicitly by the burgeoning Millennial generation. Gen Y – which numbers close to 70 million people – is in search of authentic experiences, caring more for the “story” than the cool factor. Be it wine, beer, or spirits, here are the trends we are seeing right now.


During the golden age of the cocktail, brandy and its posh sibling Cognac were frequent players in cocktails like the Sazaerac, the Side Car, and the Crusta. Seeking to reach a new generation of drinkers, spirits companies have been developing reasonably priced bottlings with their own pedigrees. The major houses all have one – C by Courvoisier, Remy V, Hennessy Black. One of the new kids in town is Cognac Park from the House of Distillerie Tessendier & Fils, a grower Cognac, whose VS and VSOP are in the $30 and $50 range, respectively. D’Useé, from Bacardi, aggressively reached out to bartenders at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, moving beyond its flashy association with Jay-Z Martell Blue Swift, which is finished in Bourbon casks, has just launched, clearly trying to bridge the gap between the Cognac drinker and the whiskey-loving brown spirits market. Creating a similar link to bourbon is Copper & Kings in Louisville, Kentucky, whose owner Joe Heron is making what he calls a definitive American brandy.


Old timey sodas have been around for a long while with brands like Jones and Boylan’s offering a blast from the past. Likewise, the cocktail craze has added fuel to craft ginger ale/beer and designer tonic waters from companies like Q, Fentimans and Fevertree. This phenomenon shows no signs of abating. In 2014, PepsiCo launched Caleb’s Kola touting an ingredient list that included fair trade sugar and kola nut, following it with their craft line of Stubborn Sodas that feature mixtures like agave vanilla cream and lemon açai. In August of this year, PepsiCo announced plans to place Stubborn in major retail outlets. Last year, their Mountain Dew brand created the retro Dewshine, offering “real sugar” as a major selling point. This past spring, the company continued this artisan focus with 1893 Cola and Ginger Cola.

Currently, Sipp Eco Beverage Company produces a line of organic, sparkling, agave-sweetened beverages including ginger blossom (elderflower and tarragon) and mojo berry (blackberry, mint and lime). Sipp is now on shelves in Target, a marketing point that suggests craft soda has reached the masses. Other local brands continue to develop. The watch words will be “real sugar”, “agave”, and “stevia”, as well as a slew of cleverly devised flavor profiles, both esoteric and approachable.


Millennials don’t have a huge amount of money, so they are less interested in the bling of a high price tag than the enjoyment that comes from discovering new flavors and little known places. Wines from smaller producers, unexpected regions, and lesser known grapes will continue to flourish. Interest in biodynamic wines is also growing, as sommeliers fashion organic and biodynamic wine lists. Meanwhile, beers are pushing the boundaries with new flavors and techniques like barrel-aging (Goose Island ages in Cab Sauv barrels Deschutes has been using rye and Cognac barrels).


Terroir has always mattered in the world of wine, but in recent years, it’s become a catch phrase in the world of spirits as well. With gin, it began when distillers started to push the definition of the juniper spirit, moving away from the London Dry profile into more experimental, botanical territory e.g., Aviation, St. George), now classified as craft or New Western. The newest gins are all about place, creating singular profiles with herbs, flowers, and spices sourced right in the distiller’s backyard.

In New Hampshire, Tamworth Distillery’s Apiary and Flora gins source botanicals like lemon verbena, red clover, and polar buds from the nearby hillsides Wilder gin from Ventura Spirits is distilled with native California herbs, such as bay and purple sage. Internationally, gins continue this trend with brands like Four Pillars, which captures the aromas and flavors of Down Under with Tasmanian pepperberry and lemon myrtle.

Other companies are focusing on local grains and other distillate substances. Greenhook Ginsmiths uses local New York wheat as its grain base. In California's San Joaquin Valley, David Souza of Corbin Cash Spirits uses the sweet potatoes grown on the family farm to distill his gin (as well as vodka and liqueur), and the farm’s rye for whiskey. Many of these spirits are only distributed locally in the states in which they are made. Some are gaining wider distribution. Regardless of their reach, they all offer the same experience -- a sense of place in a bottle.


Savory cocktails have been a fixture for some time with everything from beets to carrots adding depth to drinks. Peppers – not the corns, but the green, red, and spicy varieties – are grabbing the spotlight now. Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur was so successful that the company has released a new green chile liqueur, Ancho Reyes Verde, a brighter iteration using fresh, not smoked poblano peppers. In a quirky application of heat, Revivalist Gins out of Pennsylvania just announced their DragonDance bottling, which infuses jalapenos with other botanicals to make the first jalapeno craft gin. Other pepper variations are showing up in cocktails either muddled, steeped in simple syrups, or rolled onto rims with Tajin or other chile salts.

Like the ocean it calls to mind, tiki culture comes and goes in waves. What began in the 1940s with Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s Victor Bergeron has been reborn with a vengeance in the 21st century cocktail renaissance. With bars like Smuggler’s Cove and Hale Pele on the west coast, Three Dots and a Dash as well as Lost Lake in Chicago, and Latitude 29 in New Orleans, tiki culture is shaking its grass skirts across the country. The enthusiasm is unlikely to abate now that rum guru Martin Cate, who owns Smuggler’s Cove and co-owns Hale Pele, as well is a partner in Lost Lake, has opened False Idol in San Diego. Why tiki? True tiki drinks are a plane ticket to paradise for our tired modern souls. Besides, it’s impossible to be unhappy when you have an umbrella in your cocktail.

Our History

It’s been over 90 years since our Founder, Rose Biggi, first began bottling horseradish in the basement of her farmhouse. The history of Beaverton Foods is a story of the American Dream. As the company passes from one generation to the next, we remember the hard work and achievements of those who came before us. These photos and stories are from our own family history books. To our valued employees, customers, friends, and all those along the way who helped us grow – thank you. We hope you enjoy reading a page of our history just as much as we enjoy sharing it with you.

In 1910, Rose Biggi (the eldest of 7 daughters) and her family emigrated from Italy to the United States. Nineteen years later they drove from Beaverton to Portland to sell vegetables (including horseradish roots) at a local farmer’s market to make money during the Great Depression. One day, Rose bought a cup of coffee at the market and met Eve Grubmeyers – wife of Fred Grubmeyers. The two became close friends. In 1931, Fred and Eve opened Oregon’s first supermarket, Fred Meyer, and began grinding Rose’s horseradish for their deli department. Today, Fred Meyer has merged with Kroger and is one of the largest grocery store chains in America. Stores in many western states retain the brand name Fred Meyer.

Rose’s horseradish sold well at Fred Meyer, but the fumes drove customers out of the store. Eve convinced her friend to start grinding her own roots at home. And so she did. In the basement of her farmhouse, Rose washed the roots, removed any black spots, and ground horseradish with a cheese grater. Her hands and eyes burned during the process, but she persisted – desperate to provide for her family during the Depression. She bottled and sold her products under the label R & L Horseradish.

Rose quickly began supplying local meat markets and small grocery stores in Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Portland. Many stores were not able to buy the product, but would trade it for meat or grocery items they couldn’t sell. Rose was happy to be able to feed her family and pay the bills. As time went on, her business grew as she increased sales and acquired new accounts.

Rose Biggi’s first employee was named Esther. She was originally hired to babysit Rose’s sons, but Rose figured she might as well help put lids on jars, too. Esther started at 15 cents/hour. She quickly took over the job of making product deliveries and eventually ran the entire horseradish preparation department (with an “iron fist” as Roses’s son, Geno, puts it). Esther worked for Beaverton Foods for 63 years. She never missed a single day of work and never asked for a raise (though she was given them!). Rose loved her like a daughter and the kids considered her family. To this day, Geno credits her for teaching him how to work hard: “I was very fortunate to work with Esther and my mom for over 40 years. I never once heard them say they needed a break. Some days they worked 12 to 13 hours, taking only a few minutes to eat and then get back to work.”

After years of saving, Rose purchased land from the city of Beaverton for $4,600 and R & L Horseradish became The Beaverton Horseradish Company. Over 70 after starting the business, her son, Geno, would change the name to Beaverton Foods and build a new, 80,000 square foot manufacturing plant. Everyone at Beaverton Foods still remembers Rose as an innovator who, against all odds, built what is now the largest distributor of specialty condiments in American. Geno still has his mom’s chair in his office and her presence is felt throughout the new plant to this day.

Until this point, Beaverton Foods was still called Beaverton Horseradish company. A broker advised Geno that the business would be limited to only horseradish if he didn’t change its name. Since Geno was already producing mustard at the time, he began brainstorming a new name. One day at an Oregon State football game, he noticed the Oregon State beaver icon. Shortly after, he met with a local artist who created many varieties of beaver logos. Geno eventually decided to stick with one beaver head in particular – the face of Beaver Brand ever since.

One day in the early 1950s, Geno made his usual roast beef sandwich by putting horseradish on one side of the bread and mayonnaise on the other. Then an idea hit him: why not mix the two? The result was America’s first Cream Style Horseradish. Geno eventually developed a shelf-stable variety and a new, whipped horseradish product as well. Beaverton Foods continues to sell its Cream Style Horseradish in grocery stores around the country today.

In the early 1950s, Geno discovered a delicious hot mustard while eating at a local Chinese restaurant in Beaverton. He asked the chef where he purchased his product. Apparently, the chef told Geno, the product had to be made from scratch daily using mustard flour, otherwise it would get bitter and lose its heat. Geno couldn’t find any Chinese hot mustard in any of his local grocery stores, either. He went to work and eventually discovered a way to preserve the extra hot mustard. Beaver Brand Chinese Hot Mustard took off! It was a new first that built the creative foundation for new unique flavors in the future. You’ll still find it sold in almost every major grocery store in America.

In 1965, a trade magazine published an article about Beaverton Horseradish Company’s first automatic bottling machine. The article caught the attention of a food broker named Sam who reached out about representing the company in northern California. Since the company didn’t do any business in California at the time, Geno gladly accepted. Sam and Geno remained business partners and friends for many years. Geno remembers Sam fondly, saying “I was very fortunate because Sam was one of the best things that ever happened to Beaverton Foods… he was one of the very best.” The company wouldn’t be what it is today without his support.

In the late 1950s, brokers in the Portland area wouldn’t accept Beaver Brand products – claiming there was no market for specialty mustard and too many brands of horseradish. Since there was “no space” on the grocery store shelves, Geno decided to market his products in “dump bins” in the deli department. He placed 11 cases of assorted 4 oz products priced at 69 cents apiece. They sold like crazy! Shoppers loved the products and grocery stores loved the arrangement because the cases took up no shelf space. Several years later, a few stores allowed Beaver Brand products on the selves of their mustard sections. Today you can find Beaver Brand products in grocery stores all across America, the UK, and Canada.

In 1960, a broker showed Geno a new style of Russian Sweet Extra Hot Mustard. The flavor was good, but the product separated from the bottom of the jar and quickly became discolored. As usual, Geno accepted the challenge. He began experimenting with a new formula and discovered a way to enhance the flavor without the separation or discoloration. The product sold to stores throughout the country! Geno realized that his small company would have to produce original, high-quality flavors in order to compete in what was emerging as the specialty food industry. The experience clarified his vision for what is now the Beaverton Foods of today – with over 100 unique and delicious products.

In 1964, Geno met a man named Irvin and his father who owned a large specialty food company in Vancouver, Canada. The pair was impressed with Beaver Brand horseradish, and the relationship grew quickly. Irving pioneered the distribution of Beaver Brand products in Canada – Beaverton Foods’ first international market. Irvin came to be one of the brand’s best distributors – and a close friend. Geno will always remember Irvin as a hard worker and great friend.

In 1972, the famous Swiss Colony stores in California asked Geno to produce a sweet mustard for their brand. He worked up several formulas using sugar, but each failed when blended in factories. Geno was just ready to give up on the project when he met a local honey farmer in Beaverton. He took a few honey samples home and decided to try one more formula. To his surprise, it was perfect! Swiss Colony began selling it under its label. Unbeknownst to Geno, this was the first sweet hot mustard made with honey.

Geno wanted to test this product on the public himself. He found that most people liked the sweet flavor, but didn’t like their mustard “hot,” so he developed a sweet honey mustard formula under his own Beaver Brand label. Beaver Honey Mustard became a huge success and helped Beaverton Foods achieve notoriety.

As years passed, other companies began copying the formula. To this day, Geno takes great pride that a small company in Beaverton played a part in launching what would soon become the specialty mustard industry with the advent of honey mustard.

In 1974, Geno experienced what he called “the longest three days of his business life.” After failing to sell any cases at the yearly Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, he thought his dream was over. Then he got lucky. In 1975, a famous chef named James Beard contacted mustard companies around the world. He was writing an article for Esquire Magazine about the best mustard, domestic or imported, sold in America and asked each company to send its best products for him to taste. When the article was written, James Beard awarded Beaverton Foods 5 of the top 11 mustard spots – giving the company top honors for “value, flavor, and quality.” Companies the world over could not believe a small company in Oregon could produce such great products.

In the 󈨊s on a trip to Los Angeles, Geno discovered a unique, round jar labeled “German Style Stone Ground Mustard.” The brand was Inglehoffer and he quickly fell in the love with both the product and the packaging. Shortly after this trip, Geno met with the owners of Inglehoffer and began co-packing and distributing Inglehoffer products throughout Southern California. 6 years later, the owners sold the brand to Geno. Today, Inglehoffer is the largest and fastest-growing line of specialty condiments in America.

In the 1980s, Beaverton Foods decided to make some label improvements. Distributors were finally taking notice of Beaver Brand products and the company wanted to make sure customers could find their products on shelves. At the time, Beaver Brand was only selling small, 4 oz jars with little space. The new labels included a larger Beaver Brand head, rich colors, and large letters. They were a success! Customers could see the products and they were much easier to locate on shelves. Today, every Beaverton Foods label continues the tradition of large fonts and bright colors.

In 1986, Geno was approached by a deli owner after a Fancy Food Show who was interested in packaging mustard in squeeze bottles instead of glass jars. At the time, grocery stores only sold yellow and spicy brown mustards in squeeze. All specialty mustards were packaged in fancy glass jars, mugs, and crocks and imported from Europe. In fact, American companies said it couldn’t be done at all – the products would spoil and lose flavor. After being told he’d never be able to sell squeeze, Geno developed his own unique, squeeze bottles for Beaver Brand products. He packed up an old van and brought cases to local grocery stores. To his surprise, the critics were wrong and the products flew out of the stores! With this achievement, Beaverton Foods became the pioneer of the first-ever squeeze bottle for specialty mustard.

In 1995, the first World Championship of Mustard competition was held in Napa Valley, California. That year, Inglehoffer became Grand Champion for its Horseradish Mustard out of over 300 competitors. Today, mustard companies continue to compete each year for medals in various categories as well as to be the overall champion. Beaverton Foods has won medals in every category – and more collectively than all other mustard companies combined.

In 1993, Geno was introduced to the owner of the Napa Valley Mustard Company at the Fancy Food Show in San Fransisco. The two quickly became friends. Soon after, Beaverton Foods began producing Napa Valley’s products in its plant. In 1998, Beaverton Foods acquired the business entirely. The products soon became a favorite for gift packs, offering unique flavors with ingredients from the Napa Valley region.

In 1999, the City of Beaverton informed Beaverton Foods that a new road was to be built that would run through its plant – which included the same farmhouse in which Rose started the R & L Horseradish company 70 years earlier. Her son, Geno, built 7 additions to that farmhouse over a 60 year period and was running out of space to expand the business. At 72 years old, he had to decide whether or not to build a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing plant or sell his family-owned business. As always, he chose to innovate. The city tried to relocate the farmhouse, which was deemed a “historical landmark” – but could not find a new place for the historic home. It was soon demolished and replaced with the new road.

After deciding to expand, Geno began building a new, 80,000 square foot manufacturing plant in nearby Hillsboro – well over twice the size of the previous plant. The building opened its doors in 2001, about a year after the old plant was officially demolished. What was once a difficult decision quickly became a success as Beaverton Foods doubled its production within 5 years of completing the build. Today, Beaverton Foods is one of the most modern and efficient plants in the country. The new space also allowed its team to develop new formulas, with the goal of introducing at least one new, unique product each year. To date, Beaverton Foods has more unique flavors than any other condiment company on the market – something that Founder, Rose Biggi, could only dream of.

In 2006, Beaverton Foods purchased Tulelake Horseradish Co. The purchase allowed the company to begin harvesting the horseradish roots for all of its brands from the Napa Valley region of California – including the newly acquired Tulelake.

In 2010, Beaverton Foods introduced the first-ever Creamy Wasabi Horseradish – which became an overnight success. An increasing demand for new wasabi products lead Beaverton Foods to purchase Pacific Farms Wasabi and allowed the company to expand into a new market.

Since 1929, you would be hard-pressed to find a day there wasn’t one Biggi or another at Beaverton Foods. Rose passed ownership of the company to her son, Geno, who hoped to have the opportunity to pass it to his son – and then on to future generations. In 2012, Geno did just that by making his son, Domonic Biggi, CEO of Beaverton Foods and initiating the third generation of the company. Geno’s grandson, Jeff Biggi, has since become Executive Vice President – and the 4th generation of Biggi to work at Beaverton Foods. The two of them hope to make their family proud and continue developing unique flavors that will hopefully one day become “winners” – in the words of Geno. But don’t worry – you’ll still find Geno around the plant. At over 90 years old he’s still working on formulas as the master innovator he is!

In 2013, Beaverton Foods introduced Beaver Brand Coney Island Hot Dog Mustard and American Picnic Mustard to the UK – followed by 3 additional Beaver Brand products the next year. The expansion into the UK market marked an important milestone for Beaverton Foods as it continues to find ways to share its unique variety of products and flavors with the world.

20 years after Rose Biggi passed away, the City of Beaverton held a ceremony celebrating her achievements. The Mayor of Beaverton, Denny Doyle, led the effort and acknowledged Rose’s contributions to the city by naming a street in her honor. Her street, “Rose Biggi Avenue,” now runs adjacent to the land where she started her company. “The Biggi family has been an important part of Beaverton’s history. It is a privilege to officially recognize the opening of this new street that honors Rose and her legacy,” said the mayor. On that day, four generations of family members attended the ceremony – including Rose’s son, Geno, who helped pioneer the specialty mustard industry and is now in the Specialty Foods Hall of Fame.

In 2015, Beaverton Foods hit a grand slam earning 3 gold medals (and 9 total medals) at the 20th annual World-Wide Mustard Competition. The international competition has included entries from Japan, Greece, and Sweden and boasted 50 judges. Beaverton Foods has won more than 150 medals at this annual competition. Barry Levenson, curator of the National Mustard Museum noted, “watch out, you’ll soon be known as the New York Yankees of the mustard world.”

In 2015, Beaverton Foods inked a deal with Dot Foods, the nation’s largest food redistribution company, making its product available in all 50 states and 25 countries. Domonic Biggi, CEO of Beaverton Foods said, “[this deal] means we have national distribution capabilities that we’ve never had. Mom and pop restaurants now have access to our specialty condiments through Dot Foods. In the past, we managed our distribution all in house and we were often limited to the West Coast.”

In 2016, Beaverton Foods introduced two new products created by Geno Biggi: Inglehoffer Ghost Pepper Mustard and Sriracha Horseradish. “There is an ever-increasing demand for extra hot and spicy foods nationwide and globally,” said Domonic Biggi, CEO of Beaverton Foods. “Ghost pepper is a hot trend right now. In addition to meeting market demands, we also like to be the first to offer a new flavor profile and the new creamy Sriracha Horseradish is a first.”

In 2015, the Specialty Foods Association established its own “Hall of Fame.” A year later, Geno Biggi was honored for his role in pioneering and building the specialty food industry. Barry Levenson, curator of the National Mustard Museum said of Geno: “He never ceases to amaze me. He still comes up with new mustard flavors that seem to anticipate the hottest trends in taste. He’s not only imaginative he is also fearless. Not every flavor will take off, but he is willing to commit to adventurous flavors.” Geno was humbled by the notable honor and expressed thanks to everyone who has helped Beaverton Foods succeed for over 90 years. He takes great pride in watching his business be passed to third and fourth generations and wonders what his mom would think about how the company has grown.

In 2020, Beaverton Foods completed a two-year rebranding process to highlight its successes over the past 91 years and celebrate a history that spans 4 generations of family members into present day. The labels include two “showcase” products featuring Grandma Rose (Founder) and Geno Biggi (Chairman). The updated Beaver logo includes a “Made in Oregon” stamp – the state to which Grandma Rose immigrated in the late 1800s. You’ll also find the tagline “It’s a winner!” on each label – a phrase Geno uses to this day after he develops a formula. In fact, Beaverton Foods has won more quality awards than any other brand in the specialty food category. That’s why CEO, Domonic Biggi, says: “We know with confidence that when consumers share our family of products with their friends and family they will understand and agree why we say: ‘It’s a winner!’ on our label.”

The Most Influential People in Milwaukee

The movers and shakers and wheelers and dealers who make things happen.

Edited by Kurt Chandler | Photographs by Adam Ryan Morris

Written by Ann Christenson, Erik Gunn, Claire Hanan, Matt Hrodey, Howie Magner, Laura Merisalo, Georgia Pabst, Rich Rovito, Dan Shafer & Jon Anne Willow

They forge connections, pull the levers of change and shape the future of metro Milwaukee.

They’re politicians and CEOs, real-estate moguls and sports stars. They’re multimillionaires, entertainment kingpins, talk show hosts and social activists.

Some work behind the scenes, others front and center. Some have made the lists in the past, others are newcomers, young and creative and driven, inching their way to the top as the Old Guard falls back.

They’re the best in their class, people with access, people with clout, and they have what it takes to get things done.

We’ve ranked Milwaukee’s power players in 10 areas of influence. Read on to see who made the list. And who didn’t.

Politics & Government

No. 1: Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Executive

He’s molded county government around himself, annoying longtime supporters but making new friends, many of them conservatives. “This is a guy with unlimited funds, and everybody knows it,” says one insider. “God knows where his money is.” But can he govern? If you mean outfoxing half the town’s power brokers, yes.

No. 2: Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin

The locally minded Republican governor likes tilting the playing field on which cities and school districts operate toward the right. He’s also been a boon to legislators wanting to downsize the Milwaukee County Board or nix the city’s residency requirement. After a painful presidential race, he should be hungry for more.

No. 3: Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Mayor

Dude’s the mayor. He doesn’t inspire rave reviews from insiders, but he’s been a stable and trusted force in city politics for a long time, sort of like Milwaukee’s Dad. “On the streetcar, he was tireless and fearless,” says someone who fought alongside him and notes that when Barrett applies himself, he’s a workhorse – and one that’s just getting started, as mayoral tenures go.

No. 4: Alberta Darling, State Senator

As co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, the River Hills Republican is a state Legislature kingpin, and arguably the most powerful woman in state government.

No. 5: Chris Larson, State Senator

A team player, the former Democratic minority leader from the South Side has built up quite the network of friends and supporters, which he’ll be using as he runs for county exec early next year. In a highly polarized state, he’s allied closely with forces on the left.

No. 6: Michael Murphy, President of the Milwaukee Common Council

Now in his seventh term, few people know city government better than this lifelong West Sider, whose personal ambitions can be hot one day and cool the next. Mayoral candidate? Maybe.

Behind The Curtain

  • Pat Curley, Chief of Staff to Mayor Tom Barrett
    Barrett’s gatekeeper, a “pseudo mayor” who generates little resentment. Democrats say Curley is judicious in how he wields his special powers.
  • Tia Torhorst, Political Director to County Exec Chris Abele
    She lost a race for the state Assembly but has since distinguished herself as Abele’s sage. One insider calls her, “The person who whispers the most in Chris’ ear.”
  • Fred Kessler, State Representative
    The aging Democrat is still a kingmaker, prodding all kinds of people, from state Sen. Chris Larson to state Rep. Mandela Barnes, to run for office.

Business & Finance

No. 1: Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan, Principal owners, Milwaukee Bucks

Pre-2014, Milwaukee’s power base was classic Rust Belt, with old-money heirs, successful industrialists and a few charismatic left-fielders wielding disproportionate mojo. The new Bucks owners changed that. They put together a group of investor-owners that’s the most powerful, bipartisan and ethnically diverse band of Milwaukee movers ever assembled, and achieved what no one could before: building a new arena, with a $250 million kiss from the state.

No. 2: John Daniels & Valerie Daniels-Carter*, Owners, V&J Holdings

She’s the co-founder and CEO of the mega-franchisee (Burger King, Pizza Hut, Häagen-Dazs and others) he’s the board chair. She sits on the Packers board and is a local Bucks owner he helped with the Bucks arena deal and is chairman emeritus of Quarles & Brady. Together, these siblings have built schools and a Boys & Girls Club, and chaired corporate and nonprofit boards. Their six siblings are successful, too one can only imagine what dinnertime at the Daniels’ house was like growing up.

No. 3: Ted Kellner*, Executive Chairman, Fiduciary Management

Between managing more than $21 billion in assets and chairing the boards of Summerfest, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Kellner has muscle to spare. Why is it OK that he chairs both the Bradley Center board and is an owner of the Milwaukee Bucks? Because he assures us there’s no conflict of interest. Thank goodness.

No. 4: Sheldon Lubar, Founder and Chairman of Lubar & Co.

From humble beginnings, Lubar is the stuff of self-made legends. At 86, his board resume includes Fortune 500 companies, service under three U.S. presidents (Nixon, Ford, Carter) and heading the UW Board of Regents. Pet projects include the dismantling of the Milwaukee County board and turning partial control of MPS over to the state.

No. 5: Gale Klappa*, Chairman & CEO, WEC Energy Group

He has fingers in the juiciest pies in town, including the arena deal. At work, he pulled off a hotly contested, multibillion-dollar merger with Integrys Energy Group. As one of the nation’s highest-paid CEOs, the former M7 chairman sits on several corporate and nonprofit boards in his free time.

No. 6: Rich Meeusen, President and CEO, Badger Meter

Head of a company that grossed nearly $365 million last year, Meeusen punches above his weight. The Water Council manifests his vision for Milwaukee as the hub of the global water industry. Union supporters remember him for publicly threatening to move 100 Badger Meter jobs to Mexico if Wisconsin’s Right to Work law wasn’t passed. It was.

No. 7: Julia Taylor, President, Greater Milwaukee Committee

The GMC might be the region’s vaguest, most star-studded civic organization. Atop it sits Taylor, who attracts money and acolytes to initiatives like MiKE (Innovation in Milwaukee) and Teachtown MKE.

*Denotes local Bucks owners


No. 1: Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan, Principal owners, Milwaukee Bucks

Few in Milwaukee knew the New York billionaires before Herb Kohl sold his beloved Bucks to them in 2014. But in less than two years, they convinced big-name talent – like coach Jason Kidd and broadcaster Gus Johnson – to work for them, convinced perpetually bickering politicians to help fund a new arena, and convinced long-suffering fans that they just might win a championship.

No. 2: Bud Selig, Former Milwaukee Brewers owner, former MLB commissioner

He officially ceded his vast powers, and often-controversial tenure, as MLB’s commissioner when he retired in January 2015. That the sport’s owners kept him in the power loop as commissioner emeritus is testament to how much weight his opinion still holds. And he remains the man who brought the Brewers to Milwaukee, then kept them here with Miller Park.

No. 3: Mark Attanasio, Principal owner, Milwaukee Brewers

He succeeded Selig as Brewers owner, and was rumored as a candidate to succeed him as commish, too. It didn’t happen, but the mere prospect confirms the respect Attanasio’s engendered in MLB circles, particularly among small- and mid-market owners. The Brewers have had one of their most competitive stretches in club history during his tenure, setting franchise attendance records in the process.

No. 4: Herb Kohler, Chairman, Kohler Company owner of Whistling Straits

His vision is the reason the world’s best golfers have come to Wisconsin for two PGA Championships this decade, and will do so again in 2020 for the Ryder Cup. Kohler’s reach extends to the very roots of the game with his company’s Scotland resort, the Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews, which overlooks the venerable links where the sport was first played in the 15th century.

No. 5: Rick Schlesinger, Chief Operating Officer, Milwaukee Brewers

As the boots-on-the-ground spearhead for the club’s business, marketing and fan-experience efforts, he’s played a major role in the Brewers setting those franchise attendance records.

No. 6: Craig Karmazin*, Owner, Good Karma Brands

The son of former Sirius XM Radio chief Mel Karmazin, Craig owns WAUK-AM 540 (ESPN’s local radio affiliate), created the Wisconsin Sports Awards, and recently bought a minority share in the Bucks.

No. 7: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback

He wins games for the Packers. Wins customers with his endorsements. Wins hearts with his charity work, and those Olivia Munn videos.


No. 1: Barry Mandel, President, Mandel Group

Maybe it’s those round-rimmed glasses he wears, but Mandel is able to see Milwaukee’s real estate world the way others don’t. He’s been ahead of the wave on the booming Downtown apartment market, he’s reshaped the city with signature buildings, he’s breathed new life into toxic brownfields, and throughout all of it, he’s maintained a nearly unmatched level of creativity.

No. 2: Rick Barrett, Founder, Barrett Lo, Visionary Development

Using “Visionary Development” in your company’s name takes confidence, but so does building a multimillion-dollar high-rise in the Park East during a recession. That’s exactly what Barrett did with The Moderne. For an encore, he’s charging forward with The Couture – a new lakefront tower (complete with a streetcar hub) that will soon be a signature building in the skyline.

No. 3: Gary Grunau, President, Grucon Group part-owner, Schlitz Park

For four decades, he’s been at the center of some of Milwaukee’s biggest developments – the RiverWalk, convention center, Discovery World, U.S. Bank Center, the list goes on. The 76-year-old is still known as a trailblazing risk-taker. Look no further than his latest – Schlitz Park – as evidence. More people work there now than did during the brewery’s heyday, and a $76 million expansion is on the way.

No. 4: Matt Rinka, Principal Owner, Rinka Chung Architecture

If you want to make an architectural splash, hire UWM grad Rinka. Beyond sketching out projects like The Moderne and Oak Creek’s Drexel Town Square, he’s a key part of the city’s two new “exclamation point” towers – the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons, and The Couture.

No. 5: Willie Wade, Alderman, City of Milwaukee

While he may not grab headlines like some other aldermen, Wade is an integral part of development as commissioner of the Redevelopment Authority and chair of the Century City Redevelopment Corp. The North Side alderman has also been on the winning side of votes for the arena and streetcar.

No. 6: James T. Barry III, President, DTZ Barry

He’s behind the scenes, but Barry is Milwaukee’s broker extraordinaire. Quietly, this third-generation real estate broker has played an active role in big projects, ranging from Amazon’s new facility in Kenosha to the Park East commission that led to the new arena.

No. 7: Laura Bray, Executive Director, LISC Milwaukee

The development world was buzzing in the summer when neighborhood revitalization nonprofit LISC Milwaukee hired Bray as its new head. She’s renowned for the decade she spent running Menomonee Valley Partners – one of the city’s more notable success stories.

Ahead of the Curve

  • Several sources were reluctant to name city of Milwaukee officials as influential figures in local development, and even afraid such recognition would be more positive than what’s being said about Milwaukee County Board members. But, say our sources, three pragmatic, results-oriented mayors of county suburbs – Steve Scaffidi in Oak Creek, Dan Devine in West Allis and Kathy Ehley in Wauwatosa – are emerging as developmental leaders in the region.

Arts & Entertainment

No. 1: Dan Keegan, Director, Milwaukee Art Museum

Since taking the reins in 2008, Keegan has accomplished what other recent directors couldn’t: renovating the museum’s oldest galleries. With $10 million from Milwaukee County and gobs of private cash, sources say, Keegan pushed through the red tape for November’s big reveal. Considering more than 400,000 people enter the museum each year, the impact of Keegan’s approval on everything from architects to curators and major artworks (like the controversial Eggs Benedict) can’t be understated.

No. 2: Joe Bartolotta, Co-owner, The Bartolotta Restaurants

Many chefs have trained in the kitchens of Joe B’s empire, which – besides fine-dining venues Lake Park Bistro, Bacchus, Harbor House and others – has grown to include casual restaurant models (such as Downtown Kitchen) that it can duplicate. Bartolotta Restaurants is “the gold standard,” says a source, that “created the excitement [for dining] in Milwaukee.”

No. 3: Jonathan Jackson, Artistic and Executive Director, Milwaukee Film Festival

It was only seven years ago that the wee Milwaukee Film Festival dreamed of growing up to be like her big sister, the Chicago International Film Festival. Well, kids grow up fast these days, because this year, the MFF screened 300-plus films – about double that of Chicago. Jackson has helmed the ship since the early days, and is responsible for putting the fest on the map in record time.

No. 4: Mary Louise Schumacher, Art and Architecture Critic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

We declared her dual critic role “horrible news” in 2008, but we’ve reconsidered. When Schumacher sharply critiques the design plans of a large area museum, the museum tweaks the design. She has a knack for starting conversations – online and in print – that art lovers and artists follow in Milwaukee and beyond. Her opinions carry weight.

No. 5: Gary Witt, Executive Director, Pabst Theater Group

While he will certainly agree with his inclusion on this list, there’s no mistaking the hard and occasionally glamorous work Witt has done to lift three historic venues – the Pabst, Riverside and Turner Hall Ballroom – into the cultural platforms they are today, to the benefit of arts and entertainment groups, and even civic discussion.

No. 6: Justin Aprahamian, Chef/Co-owner, Sanford Restaurant

The James Beard Award winner has picked up the torch of excellence from another Beard-winning chef, Sanford D’Amato. There’s unanimous agreement among our sources of Aprahamian’s prodigious talent.

No. 7: Polly Morris, Executive Director, Lynden Sculpture Garden

Described as the “shrewd fairy godmother of Milwaukee’s arts scene,” Morris has made quick work of hosting artistic groups of all kinds. On top of that, she administers the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships, a highly prized grant that can help establish a local artist’s name. No small responsibility.

No. 8: David Ravel, Director, Alverno Presents

The Uncovered Series asks artists to reimagine the works of an artist with icon status, like this year’s ode to Prince organized by “dark folk” act Hello Death. Ravel brings these disparate groups together for musical events that seem to turn the concert experience on its head.

No. 9: Reggie Baylor, Artist, Owner of Plaid Tuba

The former truck driver’s art hangs in MAM, homes of wealthy locals, and in public venues for all to see. And through Plaid Tuba, Baylor and business partner Heidi Witz lend their guidance to other artists who might not be familiar with the logistical side of the creative life.

Chair of Emergency Medicine, Froedtert Hospital, Steve Hargarten. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

Health & Wellness

No. 1: John Bartkowski, President and CEO, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers

He was reforming health care before health care reform was cool. From river cleanup to lead abatement, Sixteenth Street has revolutionized caring for its community. Under Bartkowski, in 10 years, the center has doubled its budget (to $30 million) and the number cared for (to 36,000). Next: a new clinic in the 43rd Street corridor by 2017, thanks to a $12 million gift from Froedtert Health.

No. 2: Michael Gifford, President and CEO, AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin

6,899: the number of people living with HIV in Wisconsin as of 2014, nearly half of whom receive care from ARCW. 250: average number of new HIV cases in the state each year. 127: average number of HIV patients in Wisconsin who die each year. 85: percentage of ARCW HIV patients with undetectable viral loads, more than double the national average. Keeping these stats in check: Gifford.

No. 3: Steve Hargarten, Chair of Emergency Medicine, Froedtert Hospital

Treat gun violence as a preventable, biosocial disease, and the good old days of the 1930s, when Milwaukee was “the healthiest, safest and best-policed city in the United States,” are 10-15 years within reach. So believes Hargarten. With national credentials to leverage cross-sector support, this homegrown voice against violence says, “Police Chief Flynn needs to know he is not alone.”

No. 4: Joy Tapper, Executive Director, Milwaukee Health Care Partnership

As the point person for improving the health of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable, Tapper brings to one table leaders from five competing health systems, the Medical College of Wisconsin, community health centers, and local and state agencies. Tapper modestly calls herself “just a catalyst.”

No. 5: Cathy Jacobson, CEO and President, Froedtert Health

The new kid on the CEO block has more than two decades of experience but is hardly old-school. Jacobson is leading change in a new era of health care by tapping talent within and beyond the system, with an emphasis on community health and primary care.

No. 6: Geoffrey Swain, Professor, UW School of Medicine & Public Health Medical Director, Milwaukee Health Department

He combats Milwaukee’s complex public health issues with candor – and results. Most notably, Swain has worked steadily to knock down the infant mortality rate.

President and CEO, Bader Philanthropies, Dan Bader. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.


No. 1: Dan Bader, President and CEO,, Bader Philanthropies

Passionate. Engaged. Thoughtful. That’s how many describe Bader, who this year merged the foundation of his mother (Helen) and the trust of his father (Alfred). With a grant-making capacity of $15 million for the fiscal year, its funding extends to health, the arts, the poor, nonprofit management and other areas. “He’s the real McCoy,” one leader says. “He makes sure the money is spent wisely.”

No. 2: Sheldon and Marianne Lubar, Lubar Family Foundation

The Lubars not only give big, they’re active fundraisers. In July, they donated $10 million to UW-Milwaukee to establish the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship. That followed a $10 million gift in 2006 to endow professorships and scholarships at the Lubar School of Business. With foundation assets of $51 million reported in 2013, they’ve bankrolled arts, education, community and Jewish organizations, and raised millions more.

No. 3: Michael Cudahy, The Cudahy Foundation

Businessman, inventor and philanthropist, he’s described as a total risk-taker who says out loud what’s on everyone else’s mind. Cudahy has donated to a range of arts and educational institutions. He funded the MAM’s Cudahy Gardens, helped build Discovery World and the Harbor House, gave to MU and MSOE, and has taken a keen interest in lakefront development. The 92-year-old says he wants to give it all away before he dies. And with a bit under $10 million in his foundation in 2013, he just might do it.

No. 4: Michael Grebe, President and CEO, Bradley Foundation

He and the foundation have become nationally known leaders in funding conservative groups and causes, including the voucher school movement. Grebe was national chairman of Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.

No. 5: Herb Kohl, Former U.S. Senator

With his $550 million sale of the Milwaukee Bucks and $100 million donation to build a new Downtown arena, many see him entering into a more visible role in local philanthropy.

No. 6: Susan Lloyd, Executive Director, Zilber Foundation

Since coming here in 2008 to run the $50 million Zilber Neighborhood Initiative, she’s become a major force in fostering collaborations and leveraging resources to help poor neighborhoods. She sees “the big picture.”

No. 7: Ellen Gilligan, President and CEO, Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Since arriving in 2010, this daughter of an Ohio governor has encouraged foundations to be more strategic and collaborative in addressing community issues. She gets kudos for helping to launch Milwaukee Succeeds.


  • Ricardo Diaz, Executive Director, United Community Center
    • He has taken the UCC to new heights as a vital South Side center for social services, arts and education, and housing. Diaz oversaw the addition of a geriatric center for those with Alzheimer’s, and for driving the $8 million fundraising push to expand Bruce Guadalupe Community School to 1,600 students. Fans credit him as a skilled resource manager and caring mentor.
    • The couple has helped revitalize the impoverished North Side neighborhood. They’re noted for collaboration and “getting things done.”
    • He’s become a nationally recognized leader in community-based environmental education. The center has branched out from Riverside Park to Washington Park and the Menomonee Valley. Leinbach thinks outside the box, shares his knowledge widely and uses resources wisely.
    • After leading the intergenerational health and education center on the South Side for many years, she’s now replicating one at 24th Street and North Avenue. Lonergan gets high marks for raising money.


    No. 1: Darienne Driver, Superintendent, Milwaukee Public Schools

    On the job barely a year, she’s initiating bold reforms to improve student outcomes, and is seen as an energetic visionary. There’s cautious optimism she’ll remain a force for MPS, which has a history of grinding up leadership. One insider warns, “Her board and political opponents of public education could put a ceiling on her impact.”

    No. 2: Ricardo Diaz, Executive Director, United Community Center

    Respect for Diaz runs so deep in the Latino community and beyond, many believe him to be a prime candidate for public office. The Cuba native pushes education as an antidote to social ills and forges strong ties to the business community.

    No. 3: Patricia Hoben, Principal, Carmen High School of Science and Technology

    A former biophysicist and science adviser to Washington, D.C., politicos, Hoben left the laboratory to later found Carmen High School, ranked seventh in the state in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report. The charter school now has campuses on Milwaukee’s South and Northwest sides. “A gem,” says a business leader.

    No. 4: Abby Andrietsch, Executive Director, Schools That Can

    She was a manufacturing executive who shifted gears to focus on education reform. Wearing that hat, she’s working to raise the quality of school leaders and close the achievement gap.

    No. 5: Larry Miller, Vice President, MPS Board of Education

    He’s a former Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, and before that, was a union organizer. Insiders believe Miller wields the most power on the MPS board. He’s also an editor at the publishing nonprofit, Rethinking Schools.

    No. 6: Rob Rauh, Chief Education Officer, Milwaukee College Prep

    With 2,000 students in this four-campus charter school network, Rauh is lauded for producing strong results with minority and low-income students. “Not sure where Milwaukee would be without him,” says a board member.

    No. 7: Howard Fuller, Professor of Education, Marquette University

    Fuller’s memoir is titled No Struggle, No Progress, an apt summation of the career of the civil-rights activist and onetime MPS superintendent, who now leads a think tank at Marquette and the Milwaukee Collegiate Academy.

    Justice System

    No. 1: Maxine White, Chief Judge, Wisconsin’s First Judicial District, Milwaukee

    The daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers, she was named an assistant U.S. attorney straight out of MU’s Law School before taking the bench in Milwaukee in 1992. Heralded for her work in domestic violence, White cast a long shadow when presiding over family court and drug court, and was a shoe-in in March when the state Supreme Court appointed her Wisconsin’s first African-American chief judge.

    No. 2: John Chisholm, District Attorney, Milwaukee County

    Spotlighted in May by The New Yorker for his attempts to correct racial disparities in the justice system, this DA thinks outside of the box. His claim to fame was installing community prosecutors in each police station as a crime-prevention strategy. “He’s doing stuff that’s radically different than his predecessor, Mike McCann,” says a local criminologist. The heat he’s taken for leading two John Doe investigations of Scott Walker’s political associates hasn’t slowed him down. “John’s a guy who’s OK taking risks,” a source says. “Heck, he’s an 82nd Airborne guy.”

    No. 3: Carmen Pitre, Executive Director, Sojourner Family Peace Center

    She’s been a warrior in the domestic violence trenches for decades, in support of women, men and families. Pitre, say her allies, is especially effective at connecting the dots between health and welfare, and women’s rights. She’ll open the doors to the center’s new $21 million North Side headquarters in January.

    No. 4: Joseph Kearney, Dean, Marquette University Law School

    The Harvard Law School grad is seen as conservative and traditional. (He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.) Yet he asked Russ Feingold to teach (to the right’s chagrin), and created a heavyweight public forum, starring journalists Mike Gousha and Alan Borsuk, and the Law School Poll.

    No. 5: Tom Reed, First Assistant State Public Defender, Milwaukee Office

    In an adversarial system, Reed is good at partnering with opponents to solve issues, without compromising his ethical responsibilities.

    Law Enforcement

    • The short list of top law enforcers shouldn’t surprise anyone: Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn is noted for his smarts and cutting-edge community policing, while Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke scores points for his passion and endurance. Also praised is Assistant Police Chief James Harpole for putting his heart in his work and community.


    No. 1: Mike Gousha, Newscaster, WISN-TV

    Gousha enjoys respect, credibility and access to be envied by any journalist – and on two platforms: Channel 12, where he’s a weekly interviewer, and at Marquette University Law School, where his lunchtime Q&As pack the house with political and policy elites, and ambitious students angling to join them. “He’s a master interviewer,” notes one observer.

    No. 2: Dan Bice, News columnist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    His unique niche as political gossip gumshoe explains why he’s the newspaper’s only reporter repeatedly mentioned, regardless of the mentioner’s vantage point. A Bice front-page story gets people talking for days and can shape coverage by other news sources. Bice’s in-your-face celebrity has made him the face of the JS’s Watchdog team.

    No. 3: Charlie Sykes, Talk radio host, WTMJ-AM

    Love him or hate him, the flagship talker on TMJ’s right-wing radio gets unanimous recognition for commanding an audience and the power that goes with it. His website Right Wisconsin, his editorship of the conservative Wisconsin Interest policy magazine, and ties to a larger web of conservative groups extend his reach as a sort of anti-Gousha – or, say some critics, make him merely the mouthpiece for other interests.

    No. 4: Mark Belling, Talk radio host, WISN-AM

    He laid the groundwork for Sykes and others, launching his own conservative talk radio show when TMJ was still just a news station. Deprived of Sykes’ multiple platforms, Belling, some say, has an independent streak Sykes misses.

    No. 5 & No. 6: Patrick Marley & Jason Stein, Reporters, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    There’s nothing like covering a governor who garners praise and opprobrium in equal measure to lift a journalist’s visibility, but hard work helps, too, in the case of the paper’s Capitol bureau Dynamic Duo.

    No. 7: Jerrel Jones, Owner, WNOV-AM and the Milwaukee Courier

    Not as visible as he once was, but he commands two channels to the city’s black community: the only black news and talk radio, and an African-American newspaper.

    Michael Jackson

    This one’s a two-in-one as it’s not only the childhood home of Michael Jackson, but also of the entire Jackson Five. The family of 11 started off in a single-floor two-bedroom and one-bathroom home in Gary, Indiana.
    The family lived there until the Jackson 5 became a huge success, after which the family decided to move to Hollywood. They bought a two-acre estate there in the early 1970s.
    In 1988, Michael Jackson moved to his own place, the infamous Neverland Ranch, an approximately 2,700-acre piece of land with a 13,000-square-foot main house that was speculated to cost between 19.5 and 30 million dollars for Jackson. It’s said Jackson lived here until 2005 and then ended up renting a simpler establishment until his death in 2009.
    Besides it being a small amusement park with actual amusement park rides, the property included an arcade, 3 railroads, and served as a place for several huge events, like Michael Jackson’s interview in 1993 with Oprah and the wedding of Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky in 1991.

    Watch the video: Buffon, Neymar, Xavi u0026 More: Before They Were Stars U-17 World Cup (January 2022).