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 April 24, reveals a different side of celebrity chef Duff Goldman, which is best known for its baking. Now, he’s broadening his horizons to share savory recipes as well, utilizing all of his culinary skills as a classically trained chef and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.
Before becoming a great pastry chef building two businesses, the Charm City Cakes bakery in Baltimore and Los Angeles, and the DIY Duff’s Cakemix, with stores in Southern California, he worked in fine dining establishments such as French Laundry and Olives. . For this show, he keeps it sober 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 chefs.
Episodes include shots from his own kitchen in Topanga Canyon, and he’ll make dishes for his band’s rehearsal 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 welcomes viewers into his home to film his new show.
Q. Everyone thinks of Chef Duff as the ace of the pies, but I remember you telling me about the meat pie you made for your wedding. Savory has always been part of your skill set, right?
A. Yes. I started out wanting to be a chef and the first fine dining restaurant I went to, the chef said, “Look, I’m not going to hire you to cook. You don’t know how to cook yet. But I will teach you how to bake cornbread and cookies.’ And I was like, okay, 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 lot of restaurants. She is like the godmother of Baltimore cooking. She is amazing.
Q. And you worked at some other spectacular gourmet restaurants, such as French Laundry. What did you learn there that you could take with you to this show?
A. You just learn how to do things right. I find that when people cook, they tend to save a little time here and there. “Oh, that doesn’t seem so important to me, I think I’ll skip that.” But I think if you do things right, they will not only work out better, but usually faster.
Q. So, are these recipes suitable for the average home cook?
A. 100 percent! I’m not the super chic type. I make really good chili. I make really good burgers. I don’t make steak au poivre or Beef Wellington or anything like that.
Q. So the recipes are all approachable?
A. I want people to see that cooking really well isn’t as difficult as they think. I actually cook 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, like, “Wow, I totally could.”
Q. Can you tell us about some recipes?
A. These are all recipes that people can do 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. I’ll show you how to make big soft pretzels, and that’s something a lot of people are really afraid of. But I think when they see me do it, they’ll realize it’s only six steps. It’s pretty simple.
Q. What’s your take on cornbread?
A. I find it very sweet. I like the crust it gets. So if you’re baking cornbread, it’s best to use cast iron, but if you don’t, you can also use a muffin tin. What I like to do is I put the muffin tin in the oven and it gets really, really hot, then I pull it out, put the cornbread batter in it, and then stick it back in the oven. It makes the edges nicely brown and crispy, and the inside is like it’s falling apart creamy.
Q. That sounds delicious! Do you have any heritage recipes you’d like to share? You grew up in a Jewish family, right?
A. I don’t like to strum my own horn, but I’ve never tasted a babka better than the one I make. That was my great grandmother’s recipe. She was from Moldova, but for some reason she had many Sephardic recipes that were more like Spanish and Middle Eastern. I’m not exactly 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 to make 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’s really fun. I think when people watch the show, they’ll see, “Wow, this guy really likes what he’s doing.” Whether there was a camera in front of me or not, I would still have a great time. I just love to cook and share it with everyone.
‘Duff: Ace of Taste’ airs every Sunday at noon
Find details on upcoming episodes and recipes, including for Goldman’s Texas Chili, at www.foodnetwork.com/shows/duff-ace-of-taste†