MILWAUKEE — The James Beard Award is one of the most prestigious national accolades in the culinary industry.

This year Gregory Leon, the owner of Amilinda in Milwaukee, has been nominated for Best Chef in the Midwest.

(Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

Leon said he believes the secret to his success is to always practice humility and work as a team with his staff.

“My greatest asset is that I realize that I don’t know everything, and that it takes a really good team to have a very successful restaurant,” said Leon.

Amilinda owner Gregory Leon and his Sous Chef Ethan Daugherty. (Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

He said his restaurant Amilinda was inspired by his family and named after his parents.

“Amilinda is a combination of my parent’s names. My father’s name is Amilcar — he’s from Venezuela — and my mother was American; her name was Linda,” he said.

Leon’s menu is inspired by the food of the Iberian Peninsula. He said he was introduced to Spanish cuisine early in his career by one of his mentors, Richard Stephens, who owned a restaurant in Madrid.

 Now, as the owner of his own eatery, Leon said he is deeply honored by the James Beard Nomination.

“Imagine working really hard your whole life towards a goal and then getting recognized by a group of people that you admire, who you respect and knowing you have done a good job on what you set out to do,” said Leon.

It’s a recognition he said he shares with all his fellow restaurateurs. Leon said the talent in Milwaukee is vast and the local camaraderie in the industry is second to none.

James Beard winners in the Restaurant and Chef categories will be announced June 5 in Chicago.

A peek inside Amilina as Chef Leon and Sous Chef Daugherty prepare for a catering event. (Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)