BY Kristin Torres > Junior > Russian literature > University of Missouri-Columbia
Duff Goldman stood in the middle of the American History Museum checking out a Julia Child exhibit. The museum displayed her kitchen, with a TV looping highlights from her cooking shows in the background. In town for a book signing, Goldman took a moment to admire one of his culinary heroes.
“As I was watching, I started becoming aware that there was a crowd forming around me. They were watching me watch Julia Child,” Goldman laughs. “Yeah, there’s probably a couple of Facebook photos of that.”
Since age four, Goldman has loved watching Child. Now 35, he finds that he’s the one to watch. The star of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, Goldman has seven seasons of a hit show under his belt. He’s been on Iron Chef, made a cake for the stars of Harry Potter and has a New York Times bestseller. Goldman stays busy touring and playing bass with his band soihadto, giving commencement addresses at culinary schools and working in his Baltimore bakery, Charm City Cakes.
Before the Food Network came calling, Goldman trained at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California after studying East Asian history and ethics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Goldman has no regrets about going through college first. “You do 80 percent of your developing as far as who you’re going to be for the rest of your life in college. It gives you good perspective,” he says. Goldman recommends the college experience to students itching to fast-forward to culinary school. “Go to college. If nothing else, just play sports and have sex,” he laughs. “You might find something there that will spark something.”
And making food into edible works of art takes more tricks up your chef’s coat sleeve than just knowing how to bake. Most of Goldman’s staff studied subjects as diverse as interior design and architecture before coming to the bakery, and were never formally pastry trained. Having an eye for design or knowing your way around a blowtorch is handy in a bakery that goes beyond the traditional. Goldman, who always wanted to go to art school, learns just as much from his staff as they learn from him. “They’re my teachers,” he says. “They’re my inspiration.”
Whatever your path, Goldman says to be prepared for the long haul—one that isn’t guaranteed to land you on the Food Network. “When I went to culinary school, the last thing on my mind was ‘I want to be on television,’” he says. “If you want a paycheck, it’s the worst job in the world. It’s got to come from this place of love and joy.”
After the training and long days of work following culinary school, Goldman says a customer’s smile makes it all worth it. “I’m not saving anybody’s life, but I am making people smile,” he says. “They bite into the cake and you just see the joy on their faces—and that’s f–king awesome.”