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The Stew

Houck: Restaurateur Gonzmart passionate about prostate cancer

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Published:   |   Updated: April 6, 2014 at 12:14 PM

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Men can talk all day about the NFL Draft, the best day of fishing they ever had or how their child in Little League hit a ground ball through the gap to win the game.

Talking about their man-plumbing and the health problems surrounding those sensitive areas is low on the list of Comfortable Topics for Chatting About with Other Guys at a Cigar Bar.

If restaurateur Richard Gonzmart gets his way, prostate cancer patients won’t feel they have to hide their diagnosis.

And he wants to hold a walk/jog on Father’s Day, June 15, at his new restaurant, Ulele, to raise money for research.

Recently, Gonzmart, who is president of the Columbia Restaurant Group, invited close friends and powerful business associates to Ulele to enlist them in the cause. Actually, Ulele (pronounced “yoo-LAY-lee) isn’t a restaurant. Not yet. Gonzmart and his brother, Casey, are in the process of creating the restaurant inside the century-old former Tampa Water Works building.

The five-course tasting menu by chef Eric Lackey, with wine pairings selected by managing partner Keith Sedita and three house-made beers by brewmaster Tim Shackton, served as a teaser of what’s to come once the restaurant opens as well as a lure for those in attendance to give their support to his cause.

Among the temptations: gulf shrimp and blue crab cocktail with a Florida avocado puree and charred corn datil pepper relish; chicken osso bucco (lollipop chicken) with a Florida citrus red chili glaze and apple kale slaw; fresh boiled pompano with Dade City kumquat browned butter; and the signature Ulele Grilled Oysters with garlic herb butter, pecorino Romano and Parmesan.

As if creating a $5 million restaurant project wasn’t a big enough bite to chew, Gonzmart is equally as passionate about promoting prostate research through the Father’s Day event.

His annual Richard’s Run For Life, which in November will mark it’s 12th year, has raised more than $1 million for child and young adult cancer research.

This cause, though, has special resonance. Cancer took his father, Cesar Gonzmart, and his good friend, Tampa football great Freddie Solomon. David “Lags” Lageschulte one of the founders of the Hooters restaurant chain, died March 11 at age 62 from prostate cancer.

The statistics are staggering. One man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. One in 35 will die from the disease. It is second only to lung cancer in the annual number of cancer deaths in the U.S.

Gonzmart told the dinner’s attendees that he also was diagnosed this year with prostate cancer. His diagnosis shows that it is treatable, he said. He begins treatment on May 2.

If Richard Gonzmart gets his way, he’ll run a marathon three weeks later.

This is a man who survived two runs with the bulls in Pamplona. My money is on him.

That a restaurant leader wants to raise money for charity isn’t anything newsworthy. Restaurants are forever besieged to donate time, talent, money and food for various causes. It’s rare to find one that won’t do so.

Last week, chefs from across the area came together at A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa to support Champions for Children’s Top Chef of Tampa Bay competition. Also in March, Z Grille restaurant in St. Petersburg donated a raffle prize of eating Dr. Pepper Ribs for a year to support Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg. When Domani Bistro burned down in February, bars and restaurants came to the employees’ aid with fundraising dinners and cocktail hours.

It’s a safe bet to say that the world of local charities would be debilitated if the food and beverage industry decided one day to stop participating.

With so many worthy charities, it’s become easier for restaurants to focus on raising money for one cause. That explains Gonzmart’s dedication to cancer research efforts.

What Gonzmart wants is to put a face on the disease that few men want to discuss.

“Prostate cancer shouldn’t be a taboo subject,” Gonzmart said. “We’re going to change that.”

Prostate cancer. No longer a source of embarrassment.

It will happen.

If Richard Gonzmart gets his way.

For information about the Father’s Day Family Run/Walk, contact Arlynn Haarer at (813) 248-3000, ext. 24, or ahaarer@columbiaestaurant.com

jhouck@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7324

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