Watch and learn at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield

  • Above, Sandy D'Amato sears scallops and salmon while preparing his Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille at Good Stock Farm’s commercial kitchen.

  • Sandy D'Amato adds caramelized onions to his Grilled Pear and Roquefort Tart with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Charlie Austin, left, of South Hadley, talks with Paul Wielgus, of Swansea, during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato sears scallops and salmon while preparing his Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato chats with Anna Bowen, of South Hadley, while preparing his Grilled Pear and Roquefort Tart with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • D'Amato plates his Grilled Pear and Roquefort Tart with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts on plates during an observation dinner. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato, front right, talks to his diners about he meal he is about to serve during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Angie D'Amato, top right, serves guests during an observation dinner. The D'Amatos consider the best part of their business is interacting with like-minded people who love food. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato adds Pernod Anise while making Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato, with the help of his wife, Angie, prepares his Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato adds Pernod Anise while making Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clams boil in a pan, part of D'Amato's Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato prepares his Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille during an observation dinner at Good Stock Farm Cooking School in Hatfield, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandy D'Amato's Provincial Fish Soup with Rouille. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

@AndyCCastillo
Published: 3/11/2019 2:42:20 PM

James Beard Foundation Award-winning Chef Sanford D’Amato, co-owner of Good Stock Farm cooking school in Hatfield, first experimented with cooking as a teenager after watching an episode of The French Chef television show with Julia Child.

“She was in the south of France roasting a leg of lamb over an open fire — it looked like the best thing in the world,” remembered Sanford. Inspired by her French cooking, he made crepes the next day. “Basically, it was a vehicle for whipped cream and fruit,” Sanford said.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, he won the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award award for Best Chef Midwest in 1996 at Sanford Restaurant, the Milwaukee spot he founded with his wife, Angela D’Amato.

They opened the restaurant together in 1989 in the former site of his family’s grocery store, where Sanford worked throughout his youth.

The cooking school is their most recent joint-endeavor, and it merges Stanford’s culinary know-how with Angela’s front-of-house experience.

“They do such a great job. They’re such a charming couple, and great to spend time with,” said Jonathan Ginzberg of Cummington, who’s gone to five Good Stock Farm cooking classes in the past two years and intends to sign up for a few more this year. “It’s an amazing kitchen — such a pleasure to work in. And at the end of the night, you have this wonderful meal paired with wonderful wines.”

Ginzberg attends the classes with his wife, Lisa Harvey, and says they typically begin with appetizers like homemade breadsticks and seltzer and juice and iced tea. Then, Sanford leads the students through a recipe, stopping occasionally to teach knife skills and cooking techniques such as the correct amount of salt to put into water before boiling pasta.

“We’ve always done the hands-on classes. We like to get our hands in there and learn new techniques and new ideas,” he said, like pre-seasoning vegetables before cooking them.

Before cooking, Sanford tosses his vegetables in a mixture of oil and salt. “He gets his pan screaming hot” and then adds the oil-covered veggies, Ginzberg said. “We use (that technique) at home now, regularly.”

For Sanford, teaching has been a refreshing change from the restaurant business for him and his wife, he says. It takes all the best elements of running a restaurant — such as experimenting with flavors, cooking with the freshest vegetables available, creating an inviting atmosphere — and leaves out the stress that comes with scheduling waitstaff, keeping up with the dinner rush and consistently producing the same dishes day-in and day-out.

But the best part, he notes, is interacting with like-minded guests who love cooking — people like Ginzberg, an acupuncturist, but also professors, musicians, lawyers and artists.

The classes, which are either hands-on or observational, typically end with the students sitting around the D’Amatos’ dining room table for a meal.

“It’s the food that brings everyone together. That’s the start of the conversation,” Sanford said.

The D’Amatos discovered the Pioneer Valley through a friend, Hatfield-based publisher Lisa Ekus. Sanford met Ekus at a conference on writing books. At the time, he was working on a memoir with recipes called “Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer,” published in 2013. The D’Amatos often traveled to the area to visit, and fell in love with Hatfield’s landscape and culture.

In 2008, they bought and renovated an early-1900s era farmhouse on Main Street, substantially expanding the house’s footprint and adding a commercial kitchen before opening the cooking school a few years later.

“Right around the first year, Food & Wine called up, and they were doing an article on new cooking schools in the country — they named us one of the top six,” Sanford said. He was making butternut squash soup in the kitchen with Angela. The aroma of simmering onions and garlic, celery, ginger, maple syrup, and fresh and butternut squash, and “a good amount of white wine to add acidity” filled their home.

On a wall opposite the stove hung a signed caricature of Julia Child, which she gave Sanford in 1992. Sanford was one of 12 chefs in the nation to be chosen by Child to cook for her 80th birthday celebration in Boston — one of many times he’s been recognized over the years. Outside, they grow tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, garlic and herbs. What they can’t grow, they purchase from local farms like Bardwell Farm in Hatfield.

Their classes, which cover Venetian, Scandinavian and Middle Eastern cuisine, to name a few, are capped at around 10 people and routinely sell out. It’s a chance for students to develop a distinct cooking style.

“Every good chef cooks with a signature — how they treat food, how they saute things, where their palate is,” he continued.

Sanford’s palate was formed in part by the cooking of his Italian grandfather, who opened the grocery store and made traditional recipes like Spadini, a Sicilian dish of bread and tomato sauteed on a skewer with pork fat, onions and bay leaves. When he walked in the door, Sanford says he could predict what was going to be for dinner based on what it smelled like.

“He was an incredible cook. The only time he was ever happy — because he was usually miserable — was when he was cooking. When he was cooking, he was the grandfather you always wanted,” Sanford said.

Cooking, Sanford says, requires fast hands and a creative mind that’s not afraid to experiment. When it all comes together, great cuisine marries craftsmanship with artistry.

“It’s a real visceral thing. You know it when you’re eating. If you sit down to have a dish, take your first bite, throw your silverware over your shoulder and stick your face in the plate — if you have that feeling — you know it’s great food,” Sanford said.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

How to connect

Good Stock Farm cooking school is at 154 Main St. in Hatfield. Classes start at $110 for an observational dinner. It’s $150 for a hands-on experience that runs between 5 and 5 ½ hours, and $750 for a three-day cooking experience on the farm. Single day cooking classes are booked through June, but the next batch of classes will be announced in May. For more information visit goodstockfarm.com or call 413-247-6090.




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