Duff Goldman quite literally ate his way across America to film the series "Sugar High" last year — from sea to sugary sea. And we aren't talking Hollywood smoke-and-mirrors eating, where it looks like someone is tasting something but is really spitting it into an off-camera bucket. It was real — all too real, as Goldman now realizes.
Bread pudding. S'mores. Apple strudel.
Mousse. Maple bacon doughnuts.
Bananas Foster. Fried dough. Cookies. Pie.
"I was literally eating dessert all day, every day, for seven weeks straight," he says, explaining how he "blew up," gaining no less than 30 pounds, though he was too depressed to get on the scale to see an actual number. "I was doing nothing but traveling and eating crap. Nonstop eating garbage over and over and over and over for the camera. And there are ways to do that, to make sure the camera gets the shot you need. But my problem is: I would eat when the cameras were off, too. It was what I love most in the world. Good food. Butter and sugar and fat and pork."
Now, the owner of Remington's Charm City Cakes is attempting to sweat and diet it all off — that and then some.
On television, Goldman comes across as a good-time guy, with the untucked shirts, the teenage affect. So it might be hard for fans to accept that this caricature of conviviality suddenly cares about his waistline.
But Goldman not only cares — deeply — he's committed to getting in shape, committed in the same deadly serious workaholic way that helped turn the Baltimore baker into a national commodity.
He's working out intensely almost every day of the week.
His diet has become extremely spartan.
And if anyone has a problem with it, the former "Ace of Cakes" star doesn't care. Even though the last thing he wants is to be called a hypocrite — the guy who made his name in cake and now won't eat it, too.
"This is a journey that I've only been on for a little while," he says. "I'm not trying to pass myself off as anything other than a fat dude who doesn't want to be as fat as I am.
"I'm doing this for me."
Goldman, 37, was never slim. He jokes that heredity fated him to be short and stout, "a Russian farmer." Chunky but athletic, as a kid, he'd lift weights at his father's gym, then go home and chug a half-gallon of milk. In high school he played lacrosse and football and suited up for the hockey team at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
It was after culinary school, he figures, when he began to let his body really slip.
Long hours in the kitchen, surrounded by deliciousness, too exhausted at the end of the day to even think about a gym — pounds piled on.
"My life just got taken over by my cooking," he says. "If you don't have any discipline, which I don't, you can make 10 gallons of chocolate mousse, take a spoonful and another and another, and you won't realize you've eaten like five servings of it. It's just what you do."
Still, his career skyrocketing, none of this struck him as a problem until earlier this year. Coming down from Food Network's "Sugar High," trying to get Charm City Cakes West off the ground in Los Angeles, he just didn't feel good.
He'd splurged on a Zegna blazer that he wanted to wear for a publicity tour, and it didn't fit anymore. He cringed when he watched "Sugar High" and saw himself looking paunchy on his motorcycle. He had no energy.
"I was kind of lethargic and I didn't feel like doing much," he says. "I go home and sit on the couch and watch TV. I didn't want to do that anymore. I missed the feeling of being in shape."
And without any further epiphany, he got up from the sofa and took a ride to Venice.
Building a body
When Goldman decided to change his ways, he didn't just join a gym; he joined the hub for serious bodybuilders in Southern California, the Gold's in Venice Beach. And he didn't just hire any trainer; he chose the one they said was "hard core," the one who looks and sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his "Pumping Iron" days.
Not that Goldman exactly needed the discount, but he finagled a free membership after promising the manager a complimentary wedding cake.
"I wanted to go where all the people who are really motivated to be super fitness people go," he says. "All those crazy dudes with huge veins and giant muscles. I was surprised how many of them know who I am and know what I do. I'm almost like porn for those guys."
He has seen actor Lou Ferrigno there and gleefully thought to himself, "Wow, the Incredible Hulk is using the same dumbbells."
If the gym has a flaw in Goldman's book, it's that when he leaves his morning workout to get to his bakery on Melrose, he has to run the fast-food gantlet that is Venice, which seems to be peddling every mouth-watering burger known to man.
"I love burgers," he sighs. "And I love
Goldman has been exercising about five days a week since February. He's often doing "two-a-days" in which he'll do an extensive workout in the morning and then a little something else at night — often jogging or laps in the pool.
When he's traveling, which is often, the routine doesn't falter.
'What are you doing in a gym?'
In Baltimore for a few days, he rolled up to the Downtown Athletic club in a red Ducati Monster with a very Goldman-esque skull-and-crossbones sticker on the back — the skull wears a chef's hat, and the crossbones are a whisk and a spatula.
The clothes he rode in are the ones he'll work out in — long, baggy camo shorts, orange athletic shoes, a grimy Intelligencia hat and an Ed Reed jersey, size double extra-large.
Though Goldman's frame remains decidedly stocky, the 30 pounds he's lost are noticeable. His cheeks are less full, his arms more defined. He's thick and solid, with calves and biceps that swell more from muscle than fat.
When he plants himself before a weight machine, a determined tightness grips his face. He yanks pulleyed weights in toward his chest and allows them to slowly retract. Lying on a bench, he heaves a barbell, heavy with 45-pound weights on each side, above his head, again and again, dropping it only when his arms begin to slightly tremble.
He faces a mirrored wall, curling hand weights, straining the whisk tattooed onto his arm.
Sometimes, he says, he'll scream when he lifts. He'll struggle and sweat and make animal noises.
But he likes the feeling of breathlessness and the rush of blood warming his waking muscles. Even the ache afterward feels nice.
It's made him remember how strong he felt in college. "That feeling was like I could bench-press a car," he says. "I want that back, and I'm kind of getting it."
Just a couple of months ago, he worried about losing heart and maybe even quitting, he was so out of shape, sweating before he'd even started. He cursed himself for laziness and wondered how and why he let himself slide.
But now when he flexes before a mirror, he's not being narcissistic and he's not admiring his physique. He's charting progress.
The other day at Gold's, after benching 236 pounds, once, twice — six times — he ran around giving high-fives to the amused bodybuilders.
"I see myself changing bit by bit in front of my eyes," he says. "The look — even though it's a byproduct, it's a good byproduct."
In the Baltimore gym, a gum-chomping guy makes a comment after realizing it's Goldman, the cake man, there working out — something about how this fitness thing wasn't going to help him sell sweets.
"You make cakes. What are you doing in a gym?" he scoffed, mimicking the man out of earshot. "Same thing you're doing, man. ... Just because I sell treats doesn't mean I have to die in three years."
Perhaps coincidentally, he headed next to the punching bags.
No bread, lots of tuna
Goldman has become a mainstay on food shows such as "Sugar High" and "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," eating decadent dishes with gusto — overladen platters of barbecued meat, the "big" plate of fried shrimp heads at Joss Sushi in Annapolis, pie made with Berger cookies at Dangerously Delicious.
Those cameras would never film what he's eating lately.
Following the advice of his trainer, Goldman has systematically stricken every excess from his diet. No fat. No bread. No dairy. Not even any sugar.
He eats bowls of tuna and vegetables mixed with tiny bits of rice. He drinks 90-calorie protein shakes (three a day) and water.
Every morning he swallows a handful of vitamins and a supplement called L-Carnitine, which is supposed to help burn fat.
"You would laugh at my cupboard," he says. "It's full of tuna. Bumblebee."
As a chef, he livens up his tuna bowls with curry, cayenne, other spices. But lipstick, pig — it is what it is. He eats a tuna bowl every night for dinner and brings a container of it to work each day.
He stops eating at 7 p.m.
Yet he says he misses nothing.
"I kind of feel like I've been eating professionally for a long time. I've tasted everything," he says. "If there's a sausage, you know what? I know exactly what it tastes like. I love them all. But right now it's more important for me to not have all that grease and fat in my body.
"Right now, that's not what I want. What I want right now is to feel really good. What I want right now is to have normal blood pressure."
Goldman's trainer, David Muller, has noticed his client's clothes hanging looser and admires Goldman's willpower.
"This guy has a lot of power and a strong mind, which is basically what you need to change your body," he says. He thinks Goldman has the discipline to stick with it, too, all the way to his goal — losing 80 pounds.
Goldman is already laying the groundwork for it.
His staff knows that he's not reachable in the mornings. That's gym time.
If he does any more "eating television," he plans to ask for a contractual clause that stipulates time to work out, something in black and white that will keep him from falling again into that black hole of endless eating and shooting.
And when the camera stops, he'll put the fork down.
"If someone puts a camera in front of me and I have to eat a croissant, it's fine. I didn't eat three croissants before I started filming, and I'm not going to eat croissants afterward," he says. "I'm not telling people, 'Go out and gorge on croissants.' I'm telling people, 'This is a good croissant.' "
He adds: "It's always been about what's good for the show. Now I can say: 'Listen, I need to be able to do this show without having my heart explode.' "
And he only hopes that his fans get it.
He doesn't want to be skinny. He doesn't want to be doctrinaire about fitness.
He certainly doesn't want anyone to think he's pulling a Paula Deen, making a living on butter and then trying to clean up on diabetes medicine.
Goldman simply wants to feel better and firmer. And he's only talking about it in hopes that some other regular dude might look at him and realize getting in shape isn't only for the world's Brad Pitts.
"I'm not on a mission. I'm not a paragon of health for anybody. I'm not going to run a marathon or model for Men's Health or go on bike rides with Lance Armstrong. I'm not. Trust me," he says.
"I'm fat. I'm still fat. I'm working on it. And if someone out there was thinking about doing that ... instead of picking up a magazine and seeing a completely ripped super-muscle guy or bikini girl, they'll see me, the cake guy ... still a little meatball but 30 pounds less meatball than a few months ago."