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Sanford D’Amato graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1974, and stayed on for a one-year fellowship in the Escoffier Room. He then worked in various New York City restaurants through the 70’s. In 1980, he returned home to Milwaukee’s John Byron’s Restaurant where he received national attention: in 1985 Food and Wine magazine named him as one of the top 25 “Hot New Chefs,” and in 1988 as “one of the finest seafood chefs in the country” in a Bon Appétit feature article.
In 1988, he was selected as one of 12 national finalists in the American Culinary Gold Cup, Bocuse d’Or. He also competed in the 1988 and 1989 American Seafood Challenges and received one of two gold medals awarded in 1989, taking third place overall. In December of 1989, Sanford and his wife Angela opened Sanford Restaurant in the former site of his father and grandfather’s grocery store. It has since received accolades locally and nationally in Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Wine Spectator 1990 – 2011 Award of Excellence, Milwaukee Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and Esquire magazine as one of the best new restaurants of 1990.
In November of 1992, Sanford was one of 12 chefs in the nation to be personally chosen by Julia Child to cook for her 80th Birthday Celebration in her hometown of Boston. Sanford has made television appearances on feature programs such as Dining Around on The TV Food Network, Great Chefs/Great Cities and PBS Julia Child Special “Compliments to the Chef,” and America’s Rising Star Chefs. In 1994, Sanford Restaurant was awarded the Fine Dining Hall of Fame award by Nation’s Restaurant News and the DiRONA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) Award, and is a 1995 recipient of the Ivy Award from Restaurants & Institutions magazine. Sanford has also consistently received the AAA – Four Diamond Award and the Four-Star award from Mobil Travel Guide and the highest rating for food (29) and service (29) given by the Zagat Guide, making it one of eleven top-rated restaurants in the country. For 11 years, he represented the Green Bay Packers at the Taste of the NFL, helping to raise millions of dollars for Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger relief charity.
After being nominated from the first year of the awards and for six consecutive years by the James Beard Foundation, Sanford won the James Beard-Best Chef Midwest award in April of 1996. Sanford Restaurant was listed in the 2001 and 2006 issues of Gourmet magazine as one of the Best Fifty Restaurants in America. In February 2002 Sanford was one of 45 chefs chosen nationally to cook for the Salt Lake City Olympics, United States Art of the Table. After 24 years, in December 2013, the D’Amato’s sold Sanford Restaurant to their longtime Chef de Cuisine.
In fall of 2013, Sanford published his first book, GOOD STOCK: Life on a Low Simmer (Agate Midway), a memoir with recipes. For the last 14 years Sanford has written a weekly food column, the Kitchen Technician, for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday Edition. As of spring 2014, he is a quarterly contributor to Edible Pioneer Valley (Mary Reilly, Publisher) in western Massachusetts.
Sanford has conducted cooking classes for over 30 years in his restaurants and while traveling with Bike Riders Tours, Seabourn, Crystal, Viking River Cruises and Oceania Cruises. In July of 2014, he opened a small cooking school in his home called Good Stock Farm in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Along with his wife Angie, they teach small hands-on and demonstration classes using the produce and fruit from their gardens and the surrounding farmlands.