but still feel like you’re in a familiar, welcoming place.
Hospitality is a way of life for restaurant owner Brian Ward. Ward’s House of Prime is the culmination of his lifelong passion to cook delicious food and his desire to provide a friendly and welcoming environment in which he can entertain his family and friends and meet new people.
Brian’s career began in his family’s kitchen. He developed his skills by learning to cook a mean spaghetti with red sauce (his childhood favorite) and eventually mastered his grandfather’s special Sicilian steak. “My mom knew before I did that my career would revolve around cooking,” he says. At 15, he took a job as a dishwasher and, when an employee failed to show up for work one day, Brian was promoted to line cook on the spot.
He continued to work at a variety of restaurants while attending the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) Culinary Arts program and, after graduating, took a job at Port Washington’s Smith Brothers restaurant. While working primarily in the kitchen, he came into the restaurant on his days off to learn about the front of the house. It was there that he discovered how much he enjoyed engaging with guests.
Several positions managing local restaurants, including eight years at Mo’s – A Place for Steaks, fueled Brian’s desire to own his own restaurant. “I wanted a place with linens but without formal server jackets and ties. A place you go to for a special occasion or to close a big deal, but still feel like you’re in a familiar, welcoming place,” Brain explains. In 2009 he opened his steakhouse, Ward’s House of Prime, in downtown Milwaukee. In 2010 the Travel Channel featured it on its Food Paradise show, naming Ward’s prime rib one of the, “Best Large Cuts of Prime Rib in America.” The Travel Channel again honored Ward’s in 2015, hailing its prime rib the as “Best in the USA” when the restaurant was featured on the “Top 13 Steakhouses in the Country” episode. “I always felt confident our prime rib was outstanding, but it was great to have the Travel Channel agree with me,” Brain says. In 2015, Ward’s House of Prime also earned the prestigious “Wine Spectator Restaurant Wine List” award which the restaurant received again in 2016 and in 2017.
Buoyed by the success of Ward’s, Brian felt it was the perfect time to realize his dream of opening a Vegas-style build-your-own burger bar. In November 2015, Point Burger Bar opened its doors, with locations in Milwaukee and Pewaukee. He says, “I quickly learned how to make 50 burgers in the same amount of time it takes to cook one filet.” Since then, he has opened his newest concept, the Point Burger Bar Express.
Brian currently sits on the boards of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and MATC. He is especially driven to encourage young people interested in a culinary career to learn all aspects of the business, both the front and back of the house. In terms of the future, Brian notes, “As long as new ideas come to me, or ‘perfect’ locations pop up, or I’m presented with an opportunity I just can’t pass up, I will keep on opening restaurants. It’s what I do.”
“My wife isn’t a red meat eater and at Ward’s she finds something to eat each time. They have a full menu to enjoy.” —Mike
I love that you can make your experience what you want out of Ward’s. Go to the bar for some great food and watch a game or go to the restaurant and have a fine dining experience. Either way, I’ll see to it that it’s going to be great.
Executive Chef at Ward’s House of Prime in downtown Milwaukee, Bill Baumann, knows a lot about what it takes to create something outstanding. As the master behind Ward’s award-winning Prime Rib, Chef Bill has found a way to make 360 ounces (the biggest cut of prime rib eaten by a single person) taste as delicious as the much-more-popular 16 ounces. Baumann explains, “It’s all about using just the right combination of spices and then having the patience to cook it low and slow until it’s worthy of our name, no matter the size. And, no, I’m not going to share the recipe.”
Baumann began to cook at age 4, making French toast with his mom in the family’s kitchen, and he’s been cooking ever since. His first job was washing dishes in a small café where he was determined to absorb as much knowledge as possible from the cooks around him. He moved on to several smaller restaurants and his big break came when he was hired as a line cook at Karl Ratzsch’s. “There, I learned how much more than just the actual cooking goes into making a kitchen work,” he observes. After that, a stint as a sous chef at Bartolotta’s in Wauwatosa led him to a part-time position at Mo’s-A Place for Steaks. He quickly became the executive chef at Mo’s and ended up staying there for the next 10 years.
When fellow Milwaukee native and aspiring restaurateur Brian Ward decided to open his own place, he asked Chef Bill to join him as Executive Chef. Ward’s House of Prime launched in 2009 and Baumann has been at the helm since the start. Their multi-award winning Prime Beef has garnered the team international attention, as well as a loyal local following. When asked the secret to keeping diners coming back to Ward’s year after year, Chef Bill offers his simple philosophy: “Consistency. Everything must be consistent whether we are selling a BLT or lobster, it has to be the same experience every time.”
These days, Baumann enjoys his time in the kitchen at Ward’s and working in partnership with Brian Ward. After more than 18 years together, Chef Bill appreciates the support he receives and the freedom he has to make changes and improvements to both the menu, and the overall experience at Ward’s. “The most enjoyable part is walking through the dining room and seeing our guests enjoying our food. It is very rewarding after all the time and effort that has gone into making things perfect,” states Baumann. When he’s not running the kitchen at Ward’s, Chef Bill becomes Gardener Bill, spending hours patiently cultivating his wide array of Wisconsin-friendly flowers and plantings. Knowing Bill Baumann, even in the garden he’s probably created something absolutely outstanding.
If your standards are high and your work ethic is strong, we want to meet you.