Randall Goldman has come a long way since his stint as a prison chef 20 years ago.
Now the CEO of a large Charleston hospitality company, he has landed a seat at the table with luminaries in the culinary industry.
Goldman, head of Patrick Properties Hospitality Group, joins such well-known chefs as Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller on the national advisory board of the James Beard Foundation. As one of 24 members, Goldman, 48, is the first from Charleston on the 29-year-old panel. He will help steer policy, education and advocacy initiatives. He will not be involved in judging James Beard awards, an annual tradition considered the Oscars of the culinary world for the nonprofit organization named for “the dean of American cookery.”
Goldman, a Texas native who landed in Charleston after an eight-year Coast Guard stint, called the appointment “humbling” after 18 years in the hospitality industry.
“I’m excited that the James Beard Foundation, as a leader in our industry that helps set trends, that they recognize that our region needs to have a seat at that table,” said Goldman, while sitting in Fish Restaurant on Upper King Street, one of the refurbished properties in Patrick Properties’ portfolio of hospitality offerings in Charleston.
“We have so much going on here,” he said. “We have such a well of chefs in this town.”
The president of the foundation called Goldman a longtime supporter and friend of the foundation, pointing out his group for hosting the James Beard Awards nominee announcement in Charleston in 2013 at Lowndes Grove Plantation, another Patrick Properties holding, and donating popular auction packages.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to tap into his wealth of knowledge and expertise as part of our National Advisory Board to assist us in furthering the foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future,” said Susan Ungaro, foundation president.
Goldman called the James Beard appointment an affirmation that he made the right decision in 1993 to come to Charleston.
While in the Coast Guard, his ship entered Charleston Harbor on its way upriver to dry dock for repairs and he glanced over at the Holy City with its steeple-studded skyline.
“As I was crossing under the bridge, I said, ‘If I had to start over, that looks like a pretty good town to do it,’ ” he remembers thinking to himself.
When his time with the Coast Guard was up, he returned to Charleston to attend Johnson & Wales University, a culinary school that has since moved to Charlotte. While in school, he worked as the private chef for Dr. Celeste Patrick of the Medical University of South Carolina and her husband, Charles Patrick, an attorney.
After graduating from the cooking school, Goldman left for a job as the chef of a federal prison in Texas that wanted someone to teach culinary skills as a trade.
“They weren’t short of labor or time,” Goldman said. “It was a great experience to hone managerial skills.”
It also afforded him an opportunity to pass on cooking tips that inmates could use on the outside to rebuild their lives.
“How do you motivate people when money is not an issue?” he said. “I could give them a skill set.”
What brought him back to Charleston was his connection to the Patricks.
Goldman stayed in touch with them while in Texas and learned they were buying the American Theater, a boarded-up relic of a bygone era in what was then the mostly discarded Upper King Street area.
The Patricks saw it as an opportunity to open a commercial enterprise instead of a residential offering and preserve some of the city’s architecture and culture. A dinner theater resulted, something the entire community could enjoy. They renovated the building over two years and brought on Goldman in 1998 to manage it. It’s now an events venue.
Eventually, the Patricks bought nearby properties, including the William Aiken House and what is now Fish Restaurant. They restored them, garnered accolades for historic preservation and later added Lowndes Grove Plantation, the last remaining plantation house on peninsular Charleston, to their repertoire of Patrick Properties Hospitality Group.
Goldman looks back on his move to Charleston as a life-changing event. He met wife Jennifer in Charleston and went on to lead a hospitality group that oversees more than 500 weddings a year at its picturesque venues. He also oversees Fish chef Nico Romo, who has hosted two sold-out dinners at the James Beard House in New York City.
In addition to managing several properties and up to 180 employees, Goldman also tries to find ways to give back to the community. He is the chairman of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, immediate past chair of the Hospitality and Tourism Management School at the College of Charleston and a former six-year board member of the South Carolina Aquarium. His resume will now include a seat on the advisory panel to the nation’s top culinary organization.
“Now, I can help with bigger topics nationally,” he said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.