Exclusive Interview: Duff Goldman enjoys puppets on his new cooking show

Duff Goldman and S'Later, the sloth, on Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time
Duff Goldman and S’Later, the sloth, on Duff’s Happy Fun Bake Time. Pic Credit: Courtesy of Discovery +

Baker extraordinaire Duff Goldman has taken his comedy and creativity to the next level with his latest endeavor, Duff’s Happy Fun Bake Time.

Duff is sharing his cooking adventures — and giving us a taste of the sweet life — with adorable puppet friends in the new six-episode show produced by The Jim Henson Company for Discovery+.

The entire family will enjoy Duff as he battles a sea monster, meets aliens, and befriends an adorable cast of puppet characters, including a robot, a sloth, and a crab, and where he can play in a dream fantasy kitchen and bring all of his hilarious puppets to life.

In each episode, Goldman and his endearing friends learn interesting science lessons with food experiments, from what happens if you bake a birthday cake without eggs, to why patience is the most important ingredient to baking the best bread on earth, and why taste buds tingle with delight when mixing salty and sweet flavors.

The fun doesn’t stop as Goldman and his gang explore cake, bread, ice cream, pasta, chocolate, and other favorite food items.  

With its unique blend of science, mouth-watering dishes, and whimsical adventure around the globe, this is a show that Goldman wants the entire family to watch together.

Goldman has made a name for himself as a pastry chef, TV personality, and cookbook author, and he believes that attitude has a great deal to do with his success. “I think that opening yourself to the universe. It’s so much easier to float downstream than it is to swim upstream,” he says.

“When you open yourself to the universe and you allow the things that really drive you, the things that you really are excited about to dictate where you’re going to go,” he explains to Monsters & Critics. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to go and do this.’ You sort of say, ‘I want to do this, and let’s see where this takes me.’ I think that that’s the best way to be!”

Monsters & Critics: Duff, what a great combination — cakes, the Food Network, and puppets.

Duff Goldman: You can’t go wrong.

M&C: So, what’s it like working with puppets?

Duff Goldman:  You know when you say a dream come true like it’s kind of cliché, but for me, this was an actual dream come true.  I’ve been a fan of the Jim Henson Company for a long time, as we all have. It’s a magical world and getting to create something with them, every day, several times a day, I’m just like, I cannot believe this is happening. I can’t believe this is happening. It was incredible.

M&C: Does this feel like work?

Duff Goldman:  No, not at all. Some of it is really hard. I’m not an actor, and so I had to learn how to read lines and act, which was hard for me because I’ve never done it. But at the same time, all these puppeteers are so good at what they do; they didn’t make it easy, but they made it as easy as it could be for me.

M&C: Whose idea was it for the show?

Duff Goldman:  It was mine. I was baking a babka in my kitchen while I was watching Sesame Street and I was digging the art of Sesame Street. They just had so much cool conceptual stuff that they did, and I was like, “Man, that would be a great way to explain flavor, to explain how chocolate or flour works, or and other things like that.” 

So, then I started thinking about what a baking puppet show would look like. Eventually, I just wrote a whole episode and brought it to the Jim Henson Company and said, “Hey, I’ve got a cool idea for a show.”

M&C: So, who’s your audience? 

Duff Goldman:  Yes, everybody man. I think obviously kids. It’s really silly, it’s a puppet show. But I wanted it to not only feel tolerable for adults; I wanted it to be fascinating.  And so all the science that we’re getting and all the storylines, we’ve got really funky stories. Everything, I think it’s just as appealing for adults as it is for kids because it’s all real science and it’s all really interesting.

A scene from Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time
A scene from Duff’s Happy Fun Bake Time. Pic Credit: Courtesy of Discovery +

M&C: Was it difficult to come up with these science lessons and food experiments for the new show?

Duff Goldman: Not really, because you ask a question about something like, how does chocolate work? Then you do some research and you see how chocolate is a bunch of different ingredients and that’s all-crystallized together. Milk chocolate is cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. And dark chocolate is cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and sugar, but no milk.

So, just like being able to break single ingredients down and really explain them, first of all, it’s a great way to learn. For me, just doing the research is really good.

Then once you figure out how something works, then you can come up with a cool story to be able to illustrate it. For example, we’re doing bread, and so to get into baking bread, these aliens abduct me, and they’re going to blow up the planet if I don’t make them something delicious, so I tell them I’m going to make sandwiches.

They don’t know what sandwiches are because they don’t have bread on their planet, and so we go down to the bakery and we make bread from scratch and then we make a bunch of sandwiches; it’s really funny.

M&C: I see a bunch of characters that I’ve never heard of before on this show.  We’ve got your long-time sous chef, Geof.

Duff Goldman: Yes, Geof Manthorne and I have been friends since college. He started working for me in 2003, and we’ve just been business partners ever since and very good friends. 

One of the reasons why we started working together in our 20s, we were in rock bands, and we wanted to pursue music. So, we were making cakes so we could pay the rent and try to become big famous musicians. And so in Happy Fun Bake Time, Geof is my produce guy, so anytime I need butter or an apple or something, he brings it. And then he also brings a guitar and he’ll sing a song about whatever it is that we’re doing. So he’s a really good singer-songwriter.

M&C: Now did you or did The Henson Company come up with these unique and colorful characters?

Duff Goldman:  Yeah, so that was me. I was coming up with fun characters to have in the bakery, and so we have an oven as a dragon and he bakes everything in his mouth. And the mixer is a robot elephant, her name’s Dizzy.  My sous chef is a little robot named Couscous whose made out of old kitchen parts and she’s sort of in charge. She’s got to keep the rest of us reined in, including me, because I’m kind of crazy.

And then I’ve got this buddy S’Later, who’s a sloth who lives in the ceiling, and he’s a little lazy. Then we have a Chesapeake Bay blue crab named Edgar, who’s our little nod to Baltimore and named after famed poet Edgar Allan Poe. I wanted to get some Baltimore in the show, so Edgar is named after Edgar Allan Poe, and he’s a Big Bay blue crab and really cute.

M&C: If I had met you when you were making cakes and having big dreams, and before the TV shows and cookbooks, what would you have said to me if I had predicted your success?

Duff Goldman: I would have said, “No way.” None of this was ever planned. This was not the direction that I ever saw for myself. I love what I do, and when you really love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. You devote yourself to a craft, you get good at it, and people like to talk about that. That’s good.  So, every day I wake up, and I’m like, what? What happened? Is this my life? It’s so weird and awesome.

Duff Goldman on the set of Duff Happy Fun Bake Time
Edgar, the crabby crab, Host Duff Goldman and Cous Cous, a robot sidekick, as seen on Duff Happy Fun Bake Time, Pic Credit: Courtesy of Discovery +

M&C: Do you have a favorite puppet on Duff’s Happy Fun Bake Time?

Duff Goldman: I don’t think I have a favorite puppet. I really do love the half a dozen eggs in the fridge, and each one of them is a different grandmother. Every time I open the fridge, they kind of give me a hard time by yelling at me, but they also give me old wives tales, cooking advice, and kitchen wisdom. They’re really funny; I really like those guys.

M&C: What did you learn about yourself from doing the show?

Duff Goldman:  Wow, that’s a good question! I learned that I take my silliness very seriously. I like to think about it; I really enjoy the comedy involved. Like real comedy, it’s fun. It’s fun to make people laugh. And it probably comes from the same place because I love to make people happy with the food.

M&C Are you still involved in Charm City Cakes, your bakery in Baltimore?

Duff Goldman:  Yes. It’s expanded a lot. We’ve got a walk-up window so people can up and get pastries and coffee. We’re doing a lot of classes there, too. So, the Baltimore bakery is humming along, and our L.A. location is doing great as well.

M&C: If you were talking to a child watching your show, an eight-year-old or a teenager who might be unsure of themselves or having difficulty at school, what would you tell them?

Duff Goldman: I was always a weirdo. I still am, but I was definitely a pretty weird kid. I dressed weirdly, I liked different music than most of the kids. I’m kind of artistic and my head is in the clouds, it’s kind of like my cross to bear, right?  And that can be very difficult when you’re growing up. 

It’s hard to be different because when we’re kids, it’s like we don’t understand something, we make fun of it. The weird kids get made fun of a lot. My advice is just to ignore it, don’t let it change you. Just be yourself, and if you want to wear snow boots, and shorts, and a beanie on your head, go for it. Do your thing. Be yourself.

M&C: So, when your three-month-old daughter, Josephine, is older and you’re sitting down and you’re sharing this show, the puppets, humor, and cooking with her what do you hope she’ll get out of it?

Duff Goldman:  I hope she’ll want to go cook something with me. I hope she’ll want to go make something. Because that’s the best. When you can get kids hands moving, get them making stuff, kids love making stuff. Everybody loves making stuff. I think that when we’re adults, we sort of are like, “Oh, I was never really good at that so I don’t really like doing it.” 

It’s like, man, if I can get good at baking, anybody can. It’s not that hard; you’ve just got to practice. And when we were kids’ we just loved getting our hands in things. So, hopefully, my daughter will want to cook. She’s already made chili with me. She’s sat on the counter while I was making it; that was fun.

Check these out for more tasty stories on The Food Network and The Great American Baking Show on Monsters & Critics. You can find Duff Goldman on Twitter right here.

Duff’s Happy Fun Bake Time is now streaming on Discovery +

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