What's NOT on My Resume: Duff Goldman
No one starts out on top. Especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.
He may be the “Ace of Cakes” today, but it was a long road before pastry prince Duff Goldman gained enough skill to open his acclaimed Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, then garner enough recognition to land his own show on the Food Network. Before attending the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, and before landing career-changing gigs at Cindy Wolf’s Savannah, Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and at Todd English’s Olives, Goldman dabbled in fast food—and then fast driving - as a pizza delivery boy.
“I’ve done all the fast food restaurants,” Goldman says. “Burger King. Wendy’s. Roy Rogers. McDonald’s. McDonald’s was actually a good experience. I learned a whole skill set that I needed as a professional chef from there. I mainly learned about consistency. The reason McDonald’s does so well is that if I get a cheeseburger in Portland and then get one in Kalamazoo it is going to taste exactly the same. Even the amount of ice in a cup is exactly the same. When I started working in restaurants and hotels, you realize that that kind of consistency is important, even in a fine dining restaurant.” And that’s not all he took away from the Golden Arches. “I learned things like ironing your uniform before you come to work, and the hierarchy of the kitchen. Having some of those very basic lessons hammered into you at a young age is important because it’s where you start. You don’t start at the French Laundry. You start somewhere in a minimum wage job where you are going to be trained in some very, very basic things.”
Goldman says one of his most fun early experiences in the culinary world was at a spot called Sandwich Pizza in Sandwich, Massachusetts. “I made pizzas and delivered pizzas. They wouldn’t let me deliver too much, though, because the phone number of the pizza place is on the back of the truck and I drove like a maniac,” the chef remembers. “Cape Cod in the summertime is full of tourists, so everyone driving around on their vacation needs to stop and look at every freakin leaf in New England - and I’m trying to deliver a pizza! So I was driving on the wrong side of the road, passing people on lawns.” Goldman claims he never got in an accident, though there were plenty of complaints. “People would call the pizza place and complain, ‘There’s a maniac driving your truck!!’ And whoever would answer the phone would say, ‘Oh, we are so sorry. We will fire that guy as soon as he gets here.’ Yet I’d get back to the pizza place and they would say, ‘Man, you had like six people call today! It was great!’ and then there would be high fives all around.”