He is the “Ace of Cakes” and Buddy Valastro’s worst nightmare in “Buddy vs. Duff”.
But Food Network’s new daytime series “Duff: Ace of Taste,” which premiered April 24, shows a different side of celebrity chef Duff Goldman, best known for his baking skills. Now he’s broadening his horizons to share tasty recipes too, using all his culinary skills as a classically trained chef and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.
Before becoming a standout pastry chef who built two businesses, Charm City Cakes bakery in Baltimore and Los Angeles and home-made treats store Duff’s Cakemix with stores in Southern California, he worked at upscale dining rooms like French Laundry and Olives. For this show, he’s keeping it down to earth with recipes from his real life as a father, husband, and part-time rock musician who plays bass in a band with some of his cooking buddies.
The episodes will include footage of his home kitchen in Topanga Canyon, and he’ll be preparing dishes for his band’s practice session, his baby 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 Chef Duff is the ace of the cake, but I remember you telling me about the meatloaf you made for your wedding. Hearty has always been part of your skill set, right?
A Yes. In the beginning I wanted to be a chef and the first upscale restaurant I went to said, ‘Look, I’m not going to hire you to cook. You can’t cook yet. But I’ll teach you how to make cornbread and cookies.” 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 She now has a few restaurants. She’s like the godmother of Baltimore cuisine. She is wonderful.
Q. And you’ve worked at some other spectacular fine dining restaurants like French Laundry. What did you learn there that you could bring to this show?
A You’re just learning how to do things right. When it comes to cooking, I find that people try to save a little bit of time here and there. “Oh, that doesn’t seem that important to me, I guess I skip that.” But I think if you do things right, not only do they get better, they usually get faster.
Q. So are these recipes aimed at the average home cook?
A 100 percent! I’m not like a super fancy guy. I make really good chili. I make really good burgers. I don’t do steak au poivre or beef wellington or anything like that.
Q. So the recipes are all accessible?
A I want people to see that really good cooking isn’t as difficult as they think. I cook a little bit properly and I think if I break it down and demystify it it really isn’t that hard to make. … I want people to feel inspired and say, “Wow, I could absolutely do that.”
Q. Can you tell us about some of the recipes?
A These are all recipes that people can replicate at home. The texas chili is really good and I think there are seven ingredients, it’s easy. You don’t need a lot of stuff to make really good chili. There is also a lot of baking. For example, I show you how to make big fluffy pretzels, and that’s something a lot of people are really scared of. But I think once you watch me do it, you’ll realize it’s only six steps. It’s pretty easy.
Q. What do you think of cornbread?
A I like it very sweet. I love the crust it gets. So if you’re making cornbread it’s best to have cast iron, but if you’re not you can use a muffin pan instead. What I like to do is I put the muffin tin in the oven and get it very, very hot, then I pull it out, put the cornbread batter in, and then put it right back in the oven. It gets the edges nicely browned and crispy, and the inside is creamy like a crumble.
Q. That sounds delicious! Do you have any traditional recipes you will share? You grew up in a Jewish home, right?
A I don’t like blowing my own horn, but I’ve never tasted a babka better than the one I make myself. This was my great-grandmother’s recipe. She was from Moldova but for some reason she had a lot of Sephardic recipes that were more Spanish and Middle Eastern. I’m not sure how long our family was in Moldova; Maybe we came from the Middle East. But I just love those flavors, so I make things like a baklava with dates, raisins, and nuts. I love making baklava, it’s really satisfying.
Q. Ace of Taste is different from your other shows where you compete or judge. Is it liberating to do a show where you can cook what you like and just be yourself?
A It is very nice. I think when people see the show they’ll be like, “Wow, this guy really loves what he does.” Whether there was a camera in front of me or not, I was still going to have a great time. I just love cooking and being able to share it with everyone.
“Duff: Ace of Taste” airs every Sunday at noon
For details on upcoming episodes and recipes, including Goldman’s Texas Chili, visit www.foodnetwork.com/shows/duff-ace-of-taste.