Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

Justin Carlisle

At Ardent, chef-owner Justin Carlisle’s Milwaukee restaurant, which features tasting menus of the season’s freshest produce, he puts into practice what he’s learned about food from an early age, growing up on his family’s farm in Sparta, Wisconsin. There may even be a beef course that comes from a cow that his dad raised on that very farm (Ardent cooks use the whole animal in a variety of dishes). Carlisle keeps the space intimate, at 22 seats, and after hours on Fridays and Saturdays he puts into practice the Japanese-cooking skills he honed during stints at restaurants like Madison’s Muramoto and Milwaukee’s Umami Moto: He turns the place into a tonkotsu-style ramen joint and rebrands the restaurant Red Light Ramen.

Carlisle has twice been a finalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest, and Ardent (which he opened in 2013), received a Best New Restaurant nod from the Beard Foundation in 2014.

Before there was serious cooking, though, there was restaurant work as a teen, and then the National Guard, which Carlisle enlisted in for three years. During that time he also worked in restaurants, making his way up the line and eventually going to cooking school at the Madison Area Technical College. After school, he cooked at the Greenbrier Resort, in West Virginia, and in Chicago, at The Bristol, and at Tru. It was Chicago, in fact, where Carlisle, as just a high-school student, had his first tasting-menu experience, at the iconic Charlie Trotter’s. From there, with raw beef and tuna dishes that mystified and intrigued him, and, he’s said, “the aura” of the place, he was smitten—and never looked back.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.