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Star Milwaukee Chef Sanford D'Amato pens memoir Good Stock, comes to Madison to cook

The book is a must-read for anyone interested in a first-person snapshot of American culinary history.
Credit:Agate Midway
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Wisconsin chef Sanford D'Amato's book, Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer will be released next month, and the chef is currently on a tour through Madison and Milwaukee. He recently finished a five-night stint at his former restaurant, Sanford, in Milwaukee, and he comes to Madison with a dinner at L'Etoile on Oct. 30 and another at Heritage Tavern on Nov. 3. Copies of the book will be available at these events.

D'Amato sold Sanford to his chef de cuisine, Justin Aprahamian, in late 2012, ending a decades-long run at the nationally renowned restaurant that he opened with his wife, Angie, in 1989.

D'Amato's personal story cleaves close to the rise of the modern American food revolution of the last third of the 20th century, and his delectable memoir is loaded with incredible anecdotes: He enrolled at the very first class at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park when it opened in 1972, and was present for the opening party; he worked in some of New York's top French kitchens back when no American chefs ever had; he was a James Beard Award nominee the first year the accolade was given (and was in subsequent years, until he won); he rode in the Wienermobile with Julia Child, took her to the now-defunct Gobbler revolving supper club in Johnson Creek, and cooked for her 80th birthday party.

But D'Amato also relates more mundane personal moments in Good Stock with great skill and feeling. There's the classic Americana story of his first cigarette at a Big Boy, the magical tale of his uncle roasting hazelnuts in sand bags.

D'Amato grew up above his family's grocery, and he returned to live in the building when he transformed the space into Sanford. The homecoming gives a charming circularity to his tales, which are always humorous, poignant and unpretentious.

The book is a must-read for anyone interested in a first-person snapshot of American culinary history -- in how a Midwestern boy can go from eating TV dinners to being one of the most well regarded chefs of a generation.

The thoughtfulness, curiosity and attention to detail necessary for such a journey are aptly reflected in this lovable memoir, which will certainly be one of the year's best. The book makes clear that D'Amato has always been hungry for the unexplored, working toward his signature "Modern Ethnic" cuisine that he honed at Sanford.

In addition to the stories, each chapter is dotted with tempting, well-written recipes that are related to significant points in D'Amato's life. Unlike so many chef cookbooks, D'Amato is able to make these recipes meaningful to the reader. The result is a warm, compelling memoir that will bubble over into home kitchens everywhere.

Longtime Sanford fans will recognize some of these recipes and rejoice at trying them themselves. New fans, finding their way to D'Amato's food through his memoir for the first time, may find them quickly becoming part of their family's food repertoire.

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