Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger of Fairchild in Madison win James Beard award for best chef Midwest

The chefs at Fairchild restaurant, 2611 Monroe St., Madison, won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef - Midwest.
The chefs at Fairchild restaurant, 2611 Monroe St., Madison, won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef - Midwest.

Chefs Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger of Fairchild in Madison took home the award for best chef Midwest at the James Beard Awards, the food world's Oscars.

Fairchild opened at 2611 Monroe St., in March 2020, serving what they call "classic cuisine." Focusing on simple dishes with quality ingredients, Fairchild works with Madison and Wisconsin farmers to supply produce for the restaurant.

Nagano and Kroeger were in attendance at the Lyric Opera of Chicago to accept the award Monday night.

"I would like to thank my beautiful wife for understanding the hard work and dedication it takes, our business partners, our small team, our farmers, and the city of Madison," Nagano said.

"I would also like to thank my partner Marlee for making it all happen, and my daughter Evangeline, my best friend who I get to cook with every day, Itaru, all the farmers in Madison, our regulars, and the James Beard Foundation," Kroeger said.

Fairchild posted more thanks on social media Monday night.

"Thank you to every person who made it happen, our friends, family, staff current and former, farmers, producers, guests. To be recognized amongst a crowd of our industry peers and all of the deserving nominees is an honor we don’t take for granted," the post said.

About the chefs at Fairchild

According to their website, Nagano started cooking in a Japanese restaurant in Madison to relearn the language after moving from Japan to the United States when he was 9. He then moved around the country, from Los Angeles and New York to Phoenix and back to Madison making sushi and Japanese food.

Nagano graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York with honors, and worked under James Beard Award winning chef Jose Andres in Washington, D.C. He returned to Madison and worked at L'Etoile for more than six years under Beard Award-winning chef Tory Miller.

Kroeger graduated from Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy in Minnesota. He interned at Solera in Minneapolis with Beard Award-winning Chef Tim McKee before working at L’Etoile in Madison for over a year.

Kroeger moved to Napa Valley to work at Beard Award-winning chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro and then at Solbar, a Michelin-star restaurant at the Solage resort in California. After six years in Napa Valley, Kroeger returned to Madison to rejoin the kitchen at L’Etoile as sous chef, where he worked with Nagano for a year and a half.

Kroeger went on to open Italic in Austin, Texas, and spent five years working with its hospitality group.

He then returned to Madison to open Fairchild with Nagano.

The chefs at Fairchild were one of three Wisconsin nominees. Also nominated for best chef Midwest were Milwaukee chef Gregory León of Amilinda and Madison chef Francesco Mangano of Osteria Papavero.

The Midwest category encompasses Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, in addition to Wisconsin.

Lupi and Iris

Milwaukee's Lupi and Iris, 777 N. Van Buren St., was another Wisconsin finalist at the Beard Awards, one of 10 restaurants from across the country nominated for best new U.S. restaurant. The winner in the category was Kann of Portland, Oregon.

Lupi and Iris, created by Michael DeMichele and chef Adam Siegel, serves dishes from the French and Italian Riviera. It opened in May 2022.

Siegel won the Beard Award for best chef Midwest in 2008, for his work at Lake Park Bistro.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Fairchild in Madison wins James Beard award for best chef Midwest