Any regular Food Network viewer worth their (flaky Maldon) salt knows stuff about Duff.
The former host of Ace of Cakes—and founder and executive chef at Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes—pastry chef Duff Goldman is a judging panel fixture for the network’s more saccharine offerings, bringing his tempered critiques and voracious appetite to the likes of Kids Baking Championship, Spring Baking Championship and Sugar Showdown.
But did you know the newlywed (born Jeffrey Adam Goldman, actually, his childhood nickname of Duffy courtesy of his toddler brother’s pronunciation struggles) once had a side hustle as an emo rocker?
A bass guitarist in a band called Two-Day Romance, he was invited to audition for another Seattle-based group. “I tried out, and it went well, but they decided to go with somebody else,” he told Delish in 2015. “So I went back to Baltimore and opened a bakery instead.”
His shop became a catch-all for other pastry and music enthusiasts. “That’s the way the bakery was built—it was a bunch of dudes in rock and jazz bands who wanted to pursue a rock career,” he explained. “We weren’t trying to be good on television; we were trying to be good in bands.”
So, yeah, the 45-year-old is a man of many talents.
Starting tonight, he’ll flaunt just one of them, facing off against fellow bakery shop owner Buddy Valastro once more for the second season of Buddy Vs. Duff. Before you marvel at his Rubik’s Cube confections and desserts with actual movable parts, chew on these fun facts about one of America’s favorite bakers.
In you-can’t-make-this-up news, Duff Goldman is from the Massachusetts town of Sandwich. Sure, he was born in Detroit and spent some of his formative years in both Missouri and Northern Virginia, but in 1993 he graduated from Sandwich High School on Cape Cod. So he kinda had to become a chef, right?
Particularly when you consider he grew up watching culinary icon Julia Child and Cajun chef Justin Wilson on TV.
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He did, however, work through a few other potential careers, trying his hand at both music and art. “I mainly did murals,” he told Spoon University of his graffiti days. “When my mom found out I was a graffiti artist, she completely freaked out.There’s this really cool overpass. It’s a 20-foot wide bridge, and if you go underneath it, there’s a 3-foot concrete step in front of this wall. After I took her to this place she was completely torn. She wanted to be mad because graffiti is illegal, but she was also blown away and proud because she’s an artist herself.”
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But when not envisioning a future as a rock star or an artiste, Goldman could see himself in the upper echelon of the food world. When attending California’s Culinary Institute of America (after studying philosophy and history at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and attending Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran College of Art and Design), “My ideal goal at the time was to be a New York City hot shit pastry chef at a 90-seat restaurant,” he told the Daily Beast in 2018.
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Then he agreed to do a stage show called F–k You, Let’s Bake. Fresh out of culinary school, he listened when his friend pitched the concept for a theater he owned in Baltimore. “It was not at all what a regular, stand-and-stir cooking show was like,” he told Delish in 2015. “We had ninjas try to fight me while I was cooking, we’d break out into song…It was very much in the vein of Monty-Python-meets-Adam-Sandler.”
At the end of each performance, he’d slip on a gas mask to take part in the “Circle of Death” where audience members pelted him with raw eggs. But it worked. Another friend taped the show and sent it to Goldman’s producer brother Willie, then working on ER. “My brother saw it and was like, ‘Wow, you’re actually a good entertainer,'” he recalled. Soon they were putting together the demo reel that landed him on Food Network.
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Shockingly, his favorite snack isn’t a sweet. “Soft-boiled eggs with hot sauce on them,” he revealed to Spoon University. “I work in a bakery so there are always eggs lying around.”
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And he does enjoy other savory fare. “Sushi is a go-to,” he told Parade in 2012. It’s always good. You never really feel bad after eating your weight in sushi.”
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And he’s no food snob.” I love good food and seeing chefs being creative. A good chef can really make people swoon and that’s cool,” he told the outlet. “But at the same time, I do really love McDonald’s French fries, and to say that you don’t is just nonsense because they are delicious.”
But he’s been cutting back as of late, shedding weight by being careful about what he consumes when not in front of the camera. “I’m eating protein and vegetables and protein shakes and going to the gym a lot — you know, just getting healthy. Eating clean food,” he explained to Rochester, New York newspaper Democrat and Chronicle in 2017.
“I’m not on some weird no-carb diet. I’m not like, tricking my body. I’m just eating clean food. I’m eating a big breakfast, I’m eating super clean all day, and going to the gym—that’s it. It’s the only way to do it.”
No matter, though, he likes to really sink his teeth into things. “I like a nice big bite,” he told Democrat and Chronicle of his habit of going in for a healthy serving of dessert while judging. “A lot of people think I just do that for TV but then they’ll see me at a restaurant and they’re like, ‘Oh, you really do eat like that.’ And I use my hands whenever I can, even when you’re not supposed to. I just don’t like silverware. I like eating with my hands. I am a troglodyte. Yeah, that’s who I am.”
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There are a few asks he won’t accommodate at his Baltimore bakery. “Babies and pets,” he told Inside Weddings. “I think it’s weird. If you get a life-sized version of your cat, you have to cut its head off and eat it. There’s something odd about that.”
The cake he’s most proud of wasn’t an erupting volcano or the R2D2 he made for George Lucas (though, “That was really cool,” he told Parade), but rather something he whipped up for the wedding of his sous chef’s brother. “They wanted a cake that looks like Gustav Klimt made it—not a copy of The Kiss or anything, but a cake that looked like the artist himself did it,” he said of the Austrian painter. “I really had to do my research. I learned so much from inhabiting another artist’s mind.”
The result, he shared with Inside Weddings, was pretty magical: “Their wedding took place outside at a winery in Maryland and the sun was just starting to set. All of the golds and coppers and rich tones in the cake, when hit by the sun, just lit up. I thought, God just told me I’m supposed to be doing this for a living.”
Though he also thinks it’s pretty, uh, sweet that he was tapped to make all of the cakes for the lyric music video of Katy Perry‘s “Birthday”. As he recalled to Delish, “It was cool hearing the director’s vision and helping figure out how to make it happen.”
He proposed to now-wife Johnna Colbry with a piece of butcher’s twine in 2018. As he shared on Instagram of his spontaneous decision, “I didn’t plan this out, it just happened and it was so glaringly obvious that I couldn’t have stopped it if I wanted to.”
And then they wed under a T-Rex. Within nine months of his proposal, they married at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles. Along with booking a petting zoo for guests to mingle with during cocktail hour, they commissioned five cakes including a savory option: tiers of meatball, meatloaf, lamb schwarma and Pennsylvania scrapple covered with mashed potato frosting and bacon roses.