BY ARAM VOSKERICHIAN
NEW YORK–Justin Aprahamian was named Best Chef in the Midwest when the James Beard Awards – the Oscars of the culinary world – were announced on Monday, May 5 in New York. Aprahamian is the executive chef of Sanford, a fine-dining restaurant he owns in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The win follows three successive nominations – in 2011, 2012, and 2013 – for Aprahamian in the same category. In capturing the award, he stands in company with Carrie Nahabedian, who was honored in 2008 as Best Chef: Great Lakes for her cuisine at NAHA.
Aprahamian’s entrée into the food industry came early, when he was barely a teen and would help in his uncle’s catering business. In 2002, at the age of 18, he was hired as a prep cook at Sanford, where he worked his way up the ranks to sous chef and chef de cuisine. Ten years later, Aprahamian purchased the restaurant from its owner, Sanford D’Amato – himself a James Beard Award winner – and now operates it with his wife, Sarah.
Seasonally driven dishes define the menu at Sanford, often featuring new perspectives on ethnic recipes, including Armenian ones. “Something that’s become important to me is tapping into my Armenian background,” Aprahamian told On Milwaukee during a 2011 interview. Describing his signature lamb dish, he added, “I love working with lamb, you can tell I’m Armenian, right?”