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TV baker talks cake, hockey and business

Fifteen years ago, Food Network chef Duff Goldman visited the University of South Florida.

But unlike Wednesday night, he did not come to lecture.

“Me and 20 other dudes rented two 15-passenger vans and filled them up with hockey gear and beer and drove them all the way from Baltimore to Florida,” Goldman said.

He and the “dudes” were from the University of Maryland at Baltimore (UMBC), and they came to play hockey.

“(We thought) we are going to whoop these rednecks butts,” he said. “But they killed us.”

After receiving a USF hockey jersey, to the sound of cheers from an estimated 1,100 USF students and community members in attendance Wednesday night in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom, Goldman said he traded in his old hockey jersey for a chef’s coat shortly after graduating from UMBC.

For most of the lecture, Goldman spoke of his experiences as a cake decorator and business owner at his Baltimore bakery, Charm City Cakes – the location of his Food Network reality show, “Ace of Cakes.”

“I was really interested in cake making, but I never got (a chance) to get into it,” said Carleigh Tuttle, a sophomore majoring in theater design.

Goldman also interacted with the audience during the lecture and asked them if they thought his cakes, which are sometimes made with wire, foam and other non- edible items, should even be considered cake. The audience responded with mixed opinions.

“When you take a bunch of kids from art school, they are really thinking about things creatively,” Goldman said after noting that many of his employees first worked as architecture model builders and art students. “That’s when you start realizing, maybe you don’t need to hire a cake decorator.”

With his recent success and celebrity, Goldman said he has taken on more responsibilities as a business owner and left most of the decorating up to his creative staff.

“You have to be comfortable with the fact that you are not going to be (making cakes),” he said. “But it makes me feel good when I come in (to the bakery) and see someone doing something new.”

At the end of the lecture, Goldman invited his father on stage to answer questions from the audience.

“(That) made the lecture more intimate and it was fun for the audience, as well,” said Nicole Kummer, student program director for University Lecture Series (ULS).

Kummer said Goldman’s appearance attracted the largest audience ULS has hosted during the 2010-11 season, though she said guests from previous semesters, including Bill Nye and Tim Gunn, attracted larger audiences.

But Goldman, who joked about his celebrity throughout the lecture, did not seem to mind. As for his future, he envisions less cake and more wildlife.

Goldman said he wants to retire from cake decorating in about five years so that he can open a fishing charter. After, he hopes to move to Italy to farm goats and make cheese.

ULS will host its next speaker, science writer Rebecca Skloot, on March 29 in the MSC Ballroom.