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 a 1985 Food and Wine magazine as one of the top 25 “Hot New Chefs” and was touted as “One of the finest seafood chefs in the country” in a 1988 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 Challenge and received one of two gold medals awarded in 1989 and took third place overall. In December of 1989, Sanford and his wife Angela opened Sanford Restaurant in the former site of his father and grandfathers grocery store. It has since received accolades locally and nationally in Food and Wine, Bon Appétit, Wine Spectator 1990 – 2011 Award of Excellence, Milwaukee Magazine, Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Esquire magazine as one of 1990s’ best new restaurants.
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 Boston. And in 2007 at a Deer Park Buddhist Center luncheon, he personally met and cooked for His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. 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, and in 2011 he cooked for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. 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.
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 11 top-rated restaurants in the country.
After being nominated from the first year of the awards and for six consecutive years after, Sanford won the James Beard—Best Chef Midwest Award in 1996. Sanford Restaurant was listed in the 2001 and 2006 issues of Gourmet Magazine as one of the Best 50 Restaurants in America. After 24 years, the D’Amato’s sold Sanford Restaurant to their longtime Chef de Cuisine in December of 2013.
In fall of 2013, Sanford published his first book, GOOD STOCK: Life on a Low Simmer (Agate Midway), a memoir with recipes. For 14½ years until January 2015 he wrote a weekly food column, the Kitchen Technician, for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday edition. He is currently a quarterly contributor to Edible Pioneer Valley, published in western Massachusetts.
Sanford has conducted cooking classes for over 40 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 cooking classes followed by lunch or dinner using the produce and fruit from their gardens and the surrounding farmlands. The March 2015 issue of Food & Wine Magazine recently recognized Good Stock Farm as one of six best new cooking schools in the country.