Chef Duff Goldman has been cooking since age 4, when his mum found him in the kitchen watching a cooking show on TV and swinging a meat cleaver. Goldman survived the incident and followed his calling, studying pastry at the Culinary Institute of America. With stints in California and Colorado behind him, he headed back to Baltimore and opened Charm City Cakes... in his apartment. Soon, a growing client list helped propel him into an old church, which he retrofitted into a modern bakery. He’s known for producing wildly creative cakes with specialty themes. In 2006, Food Network tapped Duff and his team to star in Ace of Cakes.
Q&A Duff Goldman
Describe the Northeast: Fresh fish.
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with? Besides love? Hmm, well, being raised on Cape Cod, I was constantly surrounded by things that came out of the ocean, so I would say I love cooking with seafood the most. And bacon. And corn.
What is your favourite regional dish? New England clam chowder. No other dish is a more perfect combination of seafood, potatoes, bacon, corn and cream.
What tasty bite should travellers to the Northeast not miss? Obviously the clam chowder, but also the lobster rolls from PJ's Dari-Burger in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Also, stuffed quahog clams from the Marshland Restaurant in Sandwich. And everyone should see a cranberry bog at least once, just to experience the ingenuity of our farmers and appreciate one of the largest co-ops in North America, Ocean Spray. Also, if you happen to find yourself in Sandwich, Massachusetts, where I grew up, you should not miss three things: 1. Joe's Lobster Mart and its world-famous 32-pound lobster; 2. A summertime pig roast on the beach; and 3. A steak-and-cheese grinder from Sandwich Pizza, the restaurant I was working at where I decided I wanted to become a chef. If you are far away from Massachusetts and still want to experience the joy, just grab a bag of Cape Cod potato chips. That'll set you straight.
What inspires you about your region? New England is an earthy place. Fishing is a way of life for so many. There is more coastline in New England than on the entire West Coast ... twice over. The variety in what we get out of the ocean is equally as abundant, having as we do open ocean, bays, salt marshes and brackish estuaries, each with their own ecosystems and yummy things that live in them. Although I must say I do enjoy Pacific Coast oysters over all others, but only because I love the sea and nothing tastes like the sea more than a cold-water Pacific oyster. New England is also a farming hub, teeming with what I can only describe as the most American of produce: sweet corn, cranberries, potatoes and Concord grapes, where we make juice and jelly. There's also our Vermont maple syrup, which I have argued with many a Canadian is the most delicious in the world. The orchards of New England are also home to some the hardiest and tastiest varieties of tree and stone fruits, like apples, pears and peaches, in the country.
What inspires you about your work? There are so many rewards that come from providing food for people as a career. There are the obvious ones, like feeding people who are hungry. There's the joy of being a constant student, knowing there's always something new to learn and discover. There's the satisfaction that I have found a career that allows me to be an artist and keeps my creative edge sharp. It's a fast-moving industry and once your creativity slips, you get left behind. But what I love best about being a chef is providing a place to work for other creative people and encouraging them to be as original and thoughtful about their art as possible.
What’s your favourite place to visit in the US? Vail, Colorado, in the depth of winter. Best snowboarding in the country.
Where is your favourite city (place) to eat in the US? Shake Shack, Terminal 4, JFK airport.
Who/What inspired you to become a chef? My mom. She's the best cook on the planet. She's even better than me.
How has American culture shaped the way you cook? The beauty of American cuisine is that, like America itself, it’s made of elements of the whole world. Nothing is taboo. You can cook anything, combine anything, borrow from any culture, and it's all OK. Not only that, but we have Kansas City barbecue, and I've learned something from that. How to make something delicious: salt, sugar and fat. Done.
What international influences have inspired your cooking? All of them, but if I had to pick one I would say Japanese. Japanese cuisine is the most beautiful, the most well-thought-out and usually the cleanest and simplest. Also, Japanese pop culture has really influenced the way I create art, and that has translated into my cakes.