He’s the “Ace of Cakes” and Buddy Valastro’s worst nightmare on “Buddy vs. Duff.”
But Food Network’s new daytime series, “Duff: Ace of Taste,” which premiered Sunday, April 24, reveals another side of celebrity chef Duff Goldman who’s best known for his baking. Now he’s expanding his horizons to share savory recipes too, drawing on all his culinary skills as a classically trained chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.
Before becoming a stellar pastry entrepreneur who built two businesses, Charm City Cakes bakery in Baltimore and Los Angeles, and the DIY treats store Duff’s Cakemix with shops in Southern California, he worked in fine dining rooms such as French Laundry and Olives. For this show he’s keeping it down to earth with recipes drawn from his real life as a dad, husband and part-time rock musician who plays bass in a band with some of his chef buddies.
Episodes include shots from his home kitchen in Topanga Canyon and he’ll make dishes for his band’s practice session, his young daughter Josephine’s first tea party, a school bake sale and more. Get ready for sliders, chili, cornbread, mini quiches and other goodies. We spoke to Goldman about why he’s welcoming viewers into his home to film his new show.
Q. Everyone thinks of Chef Duff as the Ace of Cakes, but I remember telling you about the meat cake you made for your wedding. Savory has always been a part of your skill set, right?
A. Yeah. I started out wanting to be a chef and the first fine dining restaurant I went to, the chef was like, “Look, I’m not gonna hire you to cook. You don’t know how to cook yet. But I’ll teach you how to bake cornbread and biscuits. ” And I was like, OK, whatever I can do to get my foot in the door, and I just loved it.
Q. That was Cindy Wolf, right?
A. Yeah. She has a bunch of restaurants now. She’s like the godmother of Baltimore cooking. She is amazing.
Q. And you worked at some other spectacular fine dining restaurants, like the French Laundry and Olives. What did you learn there that you might bring to this show?
A. You just learn how to do things right. I find that when people cook, they tend to try to save a little time here and there. “Oh, that doesn’t seem like that’s that important to me, I think I’ll skip that.” But I think when you do things right, they’re not only gonna turn out better, it’s usually faster.
Q. So, will these recipes be geared to the average home cook?
A. 100 percent! I’m not like a super fancy kind of guy. I make really good chili. I make really good burgers. I’m not making steak au poivre or Beef Wellington, or stuff like that. You know what I mean? I’m kind of a redneck.
Q. So the recipes are all approachable?
A. I want people to see that really good cooking isn’t as difficult as they think. I do some real cooking and I think that when I break it down and demystify it, it’s really not that hard to make. … I want people to feel inspired, like, “Wow, I could totally do that.”
Q. Can you tell us about some of the recipes?
A. These are all recipes that people can do at home. The Texas Chili is really good and I think there’s seven ingredients, it’s easy. You don’t need a lot of stuff to make really good chili. There’s a lot of baking too. Like I’ll show you how to make big soft pretzels and that’s something that a lot of people are really afraid to do. But I think once they watch me do it, they’ll realize it’s only six steps. It’s pretty easy.
Q. What’s your take on cornbread?
A. I like it very sweet. I love the crust it gets. So when you bake cornbread, preferably you have cast iron, but if you don’t, you’ll be fine using a muffin tin. But what I like to do is I put the muffin tin in the oven and get it really, really hot, then I pull it out, put the cornbread batter in there and then stick it right back in the oven. It gets the edges nice and brown and crispy and the inside is like falling apart creamy.
Q. That sounds delicious! Do you have any heritage recipes that you’ll share? You grew up in a Jewish home, right?
A. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I never tasted a babka better than the one I make. That was my great-grandmother’s recipe. She came from Moldova, but for some reason she had a lot of Sephardic recipes that were more like Spanish and Middle Eastern. I’m not really sure how long our family was in Moldova; maybe we came from the Middle East. But I just love those flavors. And so I’m making things like a baklava with dates, raisins and nuts.
Q. Most of us buy baklava and it loses something as it sits on a shelf. When you make it fresh, it’s amazing.
A. It’s such a beautiful process. I love making baklava, it’s really satisfying.
Q. I think it’s great that you’re showcasing personal recipes and I notice these types of programs are trending. The other day I was watching “Be My Guest” with Ina Garten and it’s personal too, just her cooking at home for friends. “Ace of Taste” is different from your other shows because in “Buddy vs. Duff” you’re competing, in “Kids Baking Championship” you’re judging. Is it freeing doing a show where you can cook what you like and just be yourself?
A. It’s really nice. I think when people watch the show they’re gonna see that “Wow, this guy really loves what he does.” Whether there was a camera in front of me or not, I’d still be having a great time. I just love to cook and to be able to share that with everybody.