Cooking with Kids: Tips from Duff Goldman

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Episode 51│Cooking with Kids: Tips from Duff Goldman

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021

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Duff Goldman

Celebrity chef, Duff Goldman, joins the show to help you and your family have a blast in the kitchen. Duff shares tips for teaching your kids science while cooking and helping them develop independence and confidence using tools and appliances. The hosts also discuss his parenting style and cooking journey!


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Helen Westmoreland: Welcome to today's episode. I'm Helen Westmoreland

LaWanda Toney: And I'm LaWanda Toney, and we're your co-hosts.

Helen Westmoreland: And we have a super special guest today, Duff Goldman is here. The incredible celebrity chef and star of multiple shows, and we are excited to talk to him about all things, food and family. So LaWanda, I don't know if you know, but my little one, Mary Eva is finally getting to the stage where she wants to help in the kitchen, which means she mostly wants to stir and pour things. And it's still primarily more messy than productive, but she's wanting to give it a try, which is great.

LaWanda Toney: I think my husband is more messy than helpful in the kitchen, but I digress. Did you know that our guest today started in the kitchen early? Just like your daughter Helen, and was found watching a cooking show, wielding a cleaver however, when he was only four years old.

Helen Westmoreland: Oh man. So thankfully we're not wielding any cleavers, in my kitchen. But I am really excited for when she is ready to be my sous chef. Cooking is a great way to teach our kids about fractions and measurement and chemistry and all sorts of math and science skills.

LaWanda Toney: That's right Helen. And today's guest is going to give us some great ideas when it comes to the science of cooking. We're so thrilled to have Duff Goldman, chef, artist and entrepreneur join us today. Duff's first major foray into television was on the hit food network show Ace of Cakes, I remember that show, which took place in the famed Baltimore bakery Charm City Cakes.

Duff has recently starred in several new shows on the Food Network, including Cake Masters, the Baking Championship Series, Dessert Games, Buddy versus Duff and Duff takes the cake. More recently, Duff stars in the discovery plus original series, Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time, which premiered last spring. Duff also became a father in January 2021. Congratulations, Duff first and foremost. Yes, and welcome to the show. Like we said, we're super excited to have you with us.

Duff Goldman: Oh thanks, I'm excited to be here.

LaWanda Toney: Yay. So tell us a little bit more about yourself and your newest show that focuses on the science of cooking.

Duff Goldman: You know, it's interesting. I was trying to figure out a way, when I'm judging the baking championship shows, right. I talk about like, your cake is chewy because you over mixed the batter, when you over mix the batter it strengthens the protein. And, I go into the science of baking when I'm judging. And I was like, you know, I wonder if there's a way that I could make this accessible for more people. And so, I was in my apartment, one day and I was cooking and I was watching Sesame street and I was like,  I bet you could do like a puppet show. And so I came up with a format, I brought it to Jim Henson.

I was like, Hey, I got this idea. And they were like, yeah, we love it. So we went for it and we made like a whole puppet show that, it has recipes, there's real cooking. And we make a lot of good food on there, but it's really about, explaining the science of what happens. One of my favorite parts in the series is when we're explaining flavor and how flavor works. I was likening flavor to a rock band. And I was like, so the drums is like the salt and the bitter is like the bass and the sour is like the guitar and the sweet is like the keyboard.

And so, then I put on a outfit - it was just like a pink blob. And so I was a taste bud. And then I played each one of the instruments and they film me in different spots in this huge studio. Then they put it all together. So as I'm explaining the different flavors that you taste, a spotlight would come on and light up that Duff that was playing whatever. And then at the end, I was like, you build flavor like this, and then the whole band is playing, and that's where you get, like, the salty is working with the bitter is working with the sour, is working with the sweet. And so that's how I was, trying to explain how like chefs build flavor.

LaWanda Toney: Yeah, I love that. I don't think my full band plays when I cook, I'm not sure about that. Okay. So I'll say sometimes the full band is playing, but sometimes we're missing a instrument or two, I will say that.

Duff Goldman: Well, you know, the thing is, if you hear a song, and there's like, there's no bass in the song, you're like this song sounds weird.

It's the same thing with flavor. Like when you taste something, you can be like, you know, what's missing here and you sort of run through your catalog. Like, does it need more salt? No. Does it need some lemon juice or vinegar? No, does need a little sugar? Yeah, maybe needs a little sugar.

LaWanda Toney: I'll say during the pandemic, I started baking more and I didn't realize why until later is because it was the only thing that had to be exact to me, to make it work. Like, because there was so much chaos and everything happening, I automatically went to baking, because I knew if I do this, this, and this, this chocolate Mexican cookie will taste like the way that I need it to taste, even though nothing else is working in the world, this recipe I know works. So I'm a big fan, when you say, the science of cooking. Cause it isa science, there is, there's certain things that have to work to make the food taste good.

Duff Goldman: Yeah. And there's chemistry involved, there's physics involved, you know, obviously there's math involved, there's a lot of different disciplines are involved. A lot of times when you're baking it's geometry. You gotta figure out angles and stuff sometimes. I think that, cooking should almost be a STEM subject, because it really, takes a bunch of different disciplines and gives them a real world application  and understanding, some rudimentary chemistry really helps you in the kitchen. It helps you cooking helps you baking. It helps you cleaning there's like real sort of applications here, and I think that's, what's so cool about it. And I think that's why kids can like really understand it because it's not just an abstract concept.

The concept of air pressure, when you're talking about, a cake rising, and then you're explaining how air pressure affects that. And if you're baking a cake in Vail, Colorado at 10,000 feet, there's less air pressure. 'Cause there's less air on top of that cake pushing down. And so you can use less baking soda and less baking powder, because you want your cake to rise a certain amount and when you can explain it in a way that totally makes sense and kids like, oh, okay, I get it. Air pressure, got it.

Helen Westmoreland: In some ways your show's not just for kids, but it's for parents too. I said at the top of the show I have a three-year-old right. And so I'm curious what are some of those really early conversations you can have in the kitchen with your kids, to like start getting them primed for there's a whole world of not just fun to create something,, but also to really foster these science and math and physics skills with your kids. What kind of things are you putting on the radar for your little one?

Duff Goldman: Well, Josephine's going to be pretty amazing. Like, I'm expecting, she's gonna be making, you know, five course meals by the time she's six years old.

Helen Westmoreland: No pressure Josephine.

Duff Goldman: There's a little pressure. There's a little pressure. She better be good. When they have a bake sale at school, she better bring it. I would say like one of the fun things you can do is just like, when you're starting with flavor. And be like, okay, like say you're going to make some chicken. Take a chicken breast, cut it in to like four pieces and then, let your kids be like, okay, this is salt and pepper. This is cumin. This is, pepper flakes and then this'll be like paprika and onion and garlic, and then like let them flavor, let them do it. I mean, I think, you know, in all this stuff, it's really, it's, it's not about showing them stuff, just let them do it, let them flavor the different chickens.

Grill them all and then, keep the spices out that you use, so they're there. And put each chicken and be like, here, it tastes a different. This one taste totally different than this one, that way they can kind of start to figure, okay, so like this one makes the chicken taste like this, this one didn't make the chicken taste like this, and then they can understand, spices and, you know, kind of how they work. You know, like three's pretty young. But I mean, I think relatively early, I'm going to have Josephine using knives. I want her to use knives relatively early, cause I want her to understand how to respect them. I want her to understand the difference between a toy and a tool.

I mean, nothing crazy. I'm not going to give her the cleaver. Like my mom found me with. I have all my fingers, just some scars, I have them all. But you know, I mean, I think really like getting the kids to understand that, there is a difference between toys and tools and like, these are, tools that need to be respected and that there's heat and there's fire and there's hot water. There's a lot of things that you really need to kind of be careful of. Kids are smart, you make sure that they understand like, hey, this is sharp, this'll cut ya, you gotta use it right. I think that's how you do it. It's like really, you got to let them get their hands dirty. That's one of the things I've really found, like when I'm decorating cakes with kids, for example, like my instinct is like, okay, let me show you how to make this giraffe.

And they're like, let me make a giraffe, you know? And is it going to be good? Probably not. It's not going to be a Dega. Right. But they want to make a giraffe. So you got to let them, feel the stuff. and you got to let them smell things and taste things and, see what the texture of things are. Even now my daughter is eight months old, when we're feeding her, I like when she gets the banana and the oats stuff, like on her hands, She's looking at it. And she's seeing what it feels like in her fingers and, one of the things I try to do is get people to like smell things just smell the coffee, smell the spices, and you know, when you open up like a, fresh package cumin, you smell, it just it's one of the most amazing smells. Or, last night I was roasting potatoes and I had rosemary and garlic in the oven and just like, that smell of rosemary, getting kids to sort of see like how like different smells can trigger, like different memories. And you know really how powerful this stuff can be.

Helen Westmoreland: Oh man. I felt like I got a list of things to start doing. Thank you it's good advice.

LaWanda Toney: They're so good. So Duff let's talk about your book a little bit, the Super Good Baking for Kids. It really talks about how kids can be more independent in the kitchen. What ages do you feel kids can start mastering some of those baking skills, independently?

Duff Goldman: I think it really depends on the kid, but I think like six or seven - once they understand the oven is like, you know how to turn it on, how to turn it off, how to be safe, where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it. I think that kids can bake a tray of cookies.

If you've done it with them a few times and you can see, okay, they use the towel to get the, you know, the pan out so they don't burn themselves, all those things. With some supervision, six or seven is a pretty good age where they can really, you know, start, like they can operate the mixer. That's another dangerous tool that, you gotta likes how them how it works and like, you know, stick a wooden spoon in there.

You know, see that spoon gets kind of dinged up and like, so they can really see like, yeah, that's dangerous. I don't want my hand to go in there. I think once they understand that, I think they're okay. I think I would still supervised, you know, I think you definitely still want to be there, but you know, I think that start to finish, they could probably handle the entire recipe.

Helen Westmoreland: That's good. I want to actually build on that and hear you talk a little bit more about the role of independence. Cause you mentioned that before, too, that like just letting your kids do it. And I had like an aha there, because my existential challenge as a parent is like wanting to control, you want your kids to get it right, and like letting go of that is part of the processes, especially as your kids get older. Could you talk a little bit more about why you think that's important and any other tips for fostering that independence with your kids?

Duff Goldman: I think the thing is, there's no knowledge like empirical knowledge. Somebody can explain to you a thousand times how to change a tire, but until you do it, you just don't get it. And I think let them figure it out. Let him screw it up, let her make a mistake. let her make a lot of mistakes, you know mistakes are, building blocks, it's how we grow and how we get better.

But I think beyond the practical, like learn how to do something right by doing it wrong, a bunch of times, there's the more abstract idea of like giving kids an opportunity to accomplish something. And I think that when you can give someone a sense of accomplishment, it's like a self replicating virus. When a kid realizes like, oh, wait a minute, an hour ago, I had never decorated a cake before, and now I've decorated this cake and look at this thing, it's pretty good. I can do this, I can do this.

What else can I do? Maybe I can paint a picture, maybe I can write a computer program. When you give a kid a true sense of accomplishment, not just a trophy for showing up like a real, like I did, you made, I made a thing and it's good and I'm proud of it. And now I know that feeling that I'm having right now, I know I can get it. And where else can I get it?

Helen Westmoreland: Oh, I love that. I feel like it's sort of blowing my mind. I'm a science person by background and study, but like, that. I think there's this notion that like the link for science and cooking is measurement, right? Like that's the thing, but what you've just said is, what science is all about is experimentation and advancing towards something and learning something along the way. And that's totally what it is, letting your kids experiment.

LaWanda Toney: So, Duff when did you know that, hey, baking's my thing.

Duff Goldman: So when I was 14 and a half that was when you can legally work. And I got a job at McDonald's and that was my first job was at McDonalds I can make 12 big Macs in a minute. And so I,  I got in there and like, I loved it for the first. I just love McDonald's.

Helen Westmoreland: I’m still such a sucker for McDonald’s too!

Duff Goldman: Like a quarter pounder with cheese and like a large fry. They have cracked the code. Those guys. And so that's how I got into cooking was  working at McDonald's and I think I moved around, I worked at a couple other fast food joints, and then when I was in high school I got a job

[00:22:00] I grew up in a town called Sandwich and started working this place called Sandwich Pizza. I was working there as my senior year in high school and I had just graduated.

[00:22:51] My older brother had come up to Sandwich and to be with us for a few weeks. And I remember as I was talking to him, he wanted a steak and cheese. It's like his favorite sandwich. So I was making a steak and cheese.

And I'll use like chop up the meat like that, and so as I was doing it, I was talking to my brother and So, you know, I'm going to go to college and do that. And I like looked down and like I realized, like my hands were just doing their own thing and I wasn't thinking about it. And I was like, huh, I'm actually good at this. And so I was like, maybe I should go to culinary school. Like I had no idea what I wanted to do in undergrad. So I told my mom like, Hey, I think I want to go to culinary school instead, keep in mind, I was already enrolled and, had already paid for like the first semester.

And my mom's like, no way, you're going to school, she’s like, it's a phase, if you still want to go to culinary school when you graduate, then you can go. And so I went to college, graduated and then I was like, all right, I want to go to culinary school. And that was it. I wanted to be a chef when I was in undergrad. I wanted to work at this really nice restaurant in Baltimore. Amazing place. It's called Savannah. And the chef was Cindy Wolf who's, still she's lifelong friends, she's amazing. And I was like, hey, I want to work here. And, she was like, you don't know how to cook you can't, you gotta learn to walk before you run.

And so I got in there and she taught me how to bake the corn bread biscuits. And I just started doing that every day, for two years, it was baking corn bread biscuits, and I fell in love with it. There's something about baking that was just very contemplative. And as you like alter little things, I would see, if I mix the lard into the flour for too long, the biscuits would change in a certain way. Or, if I made the cornbread batter the night before and it bakes it in the morning, I noticed they were like a little bit fluffier and a little bit more tender.

LaWanda Toney: More science.

Duff Goldman: More science. Yeah. I mean, I didn't know what the science was. I just noticed like when I did something it changed, you know, and I was like, this is fascinating.

Helen Westmoreland: So what advice do you have then for some of our listeners, like parents who want to encourage not be like your mom, who's like, it's a phase. What's some advice you have for parents for how to encourage their children, if they want to raise the next Duff Goldman?

Duff Goldman: I'm thinking about, Like, how am I going to do this, when Josephine's older enough to really start cooking. And I think what I want to do is, when she likes something, I want to try to get her to understand why she likes it. Is it the flavor? Is it the texture? Is it the temperature? What is it about that chicken nugget that you really like? Or why do you like that chicken nugget and not this other chicken nugget and really try to get her to think about why she likes those things and then teach her how to do it. And then be like, all right, you liked that chicken nugget let's make it.

And I think that when they've articulated for themselves, I love how crunchy and salty that is like, all right, great. Let’s make that. And then once they understand why they're doing a certain step in a recipe and that's to create the experience that they themselves had earlier. That's to me, what a really good chef is. it's being able to - what's the thing that I loved Peking Duck. I love Peking Duck. And so like being able to articulate, like why this bite is so good and it's like, all right, well the skin is really crispy, but then there's like this like, you know, two millimeter layer of duck fat, that's adhered to the skin, and then you want the darker meat. That's, that's really, really soft, has a different texture than the lighter you want the really, really dark meat, in the same pancake.

And then you, your, the, the plum sauce is there's like this sweetness and there's a sourness. So there's like that, that, that sweet sour that kind of wraps everything else up. But then there's also these fresh green onions. And not only do they give it a really nice, like vegetal snap, but they give it that like sharpness of a raw onion, but it's not too much. I'm like salivating now, but like being sort of like articulate, like why something is so delicious. That's what I really try to give kids in super good baking for kids, there's like a two-page spread and it's all of my favorite candy.

The title of it is, “I Love Candy” and then it's all my favorite candies, but then it's why I love that particular candy. Like I love, Reese's peanut butter cups, because like, when I bite into it, the chocolate that's around the edge is a lot thicker and your teeth have to go through it, but the chocolate that's on the bottom underneath of it, it's super duper thin. And that's where your tongue kind of like pushes into it. And because the chocolate has those little ridges on it, it kind of pokes in your lip a little bit, and you feel that texture. And so I explain all that minutia of what I think about when I look forward to eating a Reese's peanut butter cup.

And I do that so kids can think about, and understand why it is. I don't just like Reese's peanut butter cups, because they're yummy.There's a very specific reasoning for why I love that?

LaWanda Toney: I'm never going to eat candy the same way again.

Helen Westmoreland: I got to be a more mindful eater.

Duff Goldman: Well it just makes it fun And, you know, listen LaWanda, if you're a terrible cook, that's how you start getting better, right. Is when you like go find the thing that you love, you taste it, right. maybe it's like chunky sirloin burger, vegetable soup, I love that stuff. Right. And there's like a certain texture to all those vegetables. They're all the same, the carrots, the potato, whatever it is. And there's so like soft and mushy and perfect. Right? So it's like, it's like a, it's like, how do you create that specific texture in those carrots? When you start thinking about that, then you'd be like, okay, I can make this.

LaWanda Toney: I like it, but just for clarification, I'm not a horrible cook, for the record. Sometimes, like I said, it just, doesn't all gel together, just going to make that clear. So Duff, I have one last question for you, what is one thing you hope families remember when they're cooking together?

Duff Goldman: Honestly, when families are cooking together I think it's really important for the parents, don't think of it as a lesson, just have fun. All of that empirical knowledge, like within the definition of empirical, you don't think about it. The way you get better at anything is by just doing it over and over again. So like, don't think about like, okay, this is a teachable moment here. And I gotta, you know, just cook some food.

You know, have some fun, take silly pictures, make a mess. It’s the kitchen, it's easy to clean., You know, I think that like  not being afraid of the mess, not being afraid of oh, this is a little too salty? Like, not being afraid of that stuff and just having a good time.

'Cause cooking, kids love to do it, most, if not, all kids love to do it. And it's like really, I think, important to make sure that it stays a fun, positive thing without pressure, because, I know I want Josephine to have a healthy relationship with food, no pun intended. I mean, but you know, I want her to understand what's in food and like listen, eat ice cream, not every day, you know, have a pie, not every day, you know. Here's some vegetables here, how to make them real yummy, you can put butter on it once in a while, not all the time, you know what I mean?

You want your kids to, when they're thinking about food, as kids, as you know, like older kids, you know, into their teens as teenagers, it's really important, I think, to make sure that kids have a positive relationship with food. That they understand what it is, how it affects them. Things that are good, things that are tasty versus things that are healthy and how to make those two things come together.

But not in a, in a pressure way because, like now more than ever. I mean, we just have so much pressure coming from so many different ways. And the kitchen, like for me is a sanctuary and, I think it's really important to make sure that we're passing that on. You know, I mean, it's hard not to, right. I mean, like, I think the kitchen is a sanctuary for me because, I remember being really young and being in the kitchen with my great grandmother when she was cooking. and then my grandmother and still my mom today, and, those memories for me are just, they're golden and wonderful and, untainted and beautiful.

[00:35:12] And I want Josephine to have those memories. It's like, man, you know, like I remember making cakes with my dad and I remember making breakfast for my mom and we made an omelet. I think those are some of the, I think some of the most priceless gifts I could give her.

Helen Westmoreland: That's great advice, and so if folks want to learn more, if they want more, tell us your social handles, what you got going on, where should our listeners go to check you out your, your great work?

Duff Goldman: Okay, so let's see if you go to, if you want to go on Discovery+, check out Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time. It's the greatest show that's ever been made. I poured everything I had in this show and it's just. I have never been as proud of anything.

And I think when people watch it, you can really tell it's really good. Let's see, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Duff Goldman, there's only one. Where else do you go to, if you want to, if you want to see all the cakes, you can go to, you can also sign up for classes there. And if you guys are ever out in LA, I have a shop called Duff Cakemix, where you can come in and decorate your own cake. It's pretty fun.

LaWanda Toney: Yeah, that sounds great.

Helen Westmoreland: I'm so stoked because I'm actually making a cake with Mary Eva this week and I'm like, oh, I have a whole new mindset on how to go about this. Thank you so much.

Duff Goldman: Yeah, one thing I find like when you're making a cake, especially with a kid is do a sketch, beforehand. And you say, okay, what do you want the cake to look like? Because even if it's just a rough idea, it helps sort of like, okay, I have a vision and then you execute it, you know, and then doesnt have to be perfect, doesn't have to be the same colors or whatever, but it's just like, it's, it's just kind of like a rough roadmap on like how to get from A to B.

LaWanda Toney: That's a great idea. My son did, he did a cooking camp two summers ago. And he still talks about it. He loved it. And you talk about like releasing your, being free to just try other things. I really think it was like a door opener for him, because he came home. He was super Independent. Like I know how to make brownies, mom let's do it. He had his little cookbook that they kind of put together with construction paper, and stuff. And he pulls it out, he still has it. He pulled it out the other day. Cause he was like, mom, are you about to make meatballs? I have a recipe. I was like, let's look. So, yeah. It's so cool. So I definitely agree with everything that you said, and I need to be more. Make it fun, like just let him go for it.

Helen Westmoreland: I was like, I gotta let loose a little more with the kiddo. I definitely got to just embrace the mess.

Duff Goldman: It's funny, like, you know, like w, like Josephine's our first kid and I'm an older dad and I'm a little more like, yeah, she’ll be fine.

Helen Westmoreland: Have you guys decided what her first birthday cake is going to be?

Duff Goldman: No, no idea.

Helen Westmoreland: I feel like the pressure is going to be on you, Dad. The PTAs are all going to be calling you when it's time.

Duff Goldman: When she gets to school, like those bake sales, like, man, I was like, oh like.

LaWanda: He’ll take care of all of it.

Helen Westmoreland: Well, thank you so much for joining us

Duff Goldman: Yeah thanks for having me, this was really great.

LaWanda Toney: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Helen Westmoreland: Yeah.

LaWanda Toney: And to our listeners, thank you for joining us. As always, for more resources related to today's episode, check out If you liked this episode, please consider recommending it to a friend in your life, who's a wiz in the kitchen, or one who could use some help, maybe like me. Thanks for listening and join us next time.