Baking and science aren’t exactly two subjects that you think go hand in hand, but—as most people who do frequent the hobby know—science is actually a huge part of creating a dish. Now combine the learning behind a culinary hobby with the wit and the experience of the Jim Henson Company, along with cake star Duff Goldman, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
In Goldman’s new show, ‘Happy Fun Bake Time,’ the 46-year-old kitchen pro breaks down the ins and outs of baking over the course of six episodes, with the help of a few puppet pals that he created himself. Although silly in nature, the project is one that Goldman says he’s most proud of, mainly because of what it will inspire people to do… wonder.
Goldman discussed what went into making his latest show with the Food Network, now available on Discovery+.
Where did the idea for this show first originate?
I was making a chocolate babka in my apartment, and I was watching ‘Sesame Street’—I was just kind of noticing just the way that they explain things, it’s just very beautiful and artistic. So, I was wondering, how would ‘Sesame Street’ explain making a babka? I started thinking about what that would look like, what it would entail, and then I started coming up with characters to be helping me do that and I kind of wrote a whole episode… and then I brought it to Jim Henson Company.
Once you brought the idea to the Jim Henson company, how was it then getting to work with the puppeteers and the puppets?
There is something special about [that company]…Every person that works for the Jim Henson Company was just a beautiful soul. They love what they do, and they really understand what they do and it’s so specific and so technical. If we didn’t have the puppeteers that we had, I think it probably would have been a lot more difficult for me because I’m not an actor, I’ve never had to learn lines or anything like that. But, it’s just astounding watching these guys. They’re all laying on the ground and they’re looking at monitors, so they can see what the camera sees. They’re behind the counter and then they’re contorted into all these crazy positions and they’re still able to work the puppets and make them emote… And I mean really make them come to life.
They have comedy jobs and improv jobs, and they learned their lines—It’s really incredible. You have two people, sometimes three or four operating a puppet and everybody has to be in sync and really paying attention to whoever’s talking so you can get the right hand gestures and the right eye movements. Getting to be there on set and just being able to sit there and watch what they do…Just as somebody who is a student and a fan of craft, it’s really incredible to watch the way that everybody communicates and everybody works. It’s beautiful.
This series also incorporates a lot of science into the cooking, what do you think that will bring to the viewer experience?
One of the first things I think it’s going to help: It can help kids eat different stuff and get really picky eaters to start trying new things, because a lot of times kids don’t want to eat something because they have no idea what it is. So, when you really can explain the stuff in a way that’s sort of entertaining and fun for kids, the next time that they see pesto, for example, they may be like, oh, I want to try that… Duff was talking about pesto, it looks really delicious and I want to taste it now because I know what’s going on.
But the biggest thing I want to help with is people’s curiosity, kids and adults. I think that when we’re curious about the world, it makes it a much more interesting place. I think it just fosters: Oh, well, if I can learn about chocolate, maybe I can learn about cakes and if I can learn about cakes, maybe I can learn about design and if I learn about design, I can get into computers…Just getting kids to start asking questions, and any kind of question is really important. I think that that’s what really gets us through life is being curious about what’s around the corner.
I think that also goes hand in hand with how some people might be intimidated to get in the kitchen as well.
One of the things that we really made sure to do on the show is that when I was cooking if I made a mistake, we’d leave it in there. A lot of the mistakes made it into the final cut. I make mistakes all the time, and when I have to fix the mistake, I’m really vocal about it—I need to do this or I need to do that, and it helps people. It helps people get through problems by listening to me talk myself through it, so it’s like we’re all learning together, you know? But I just hope people love it, I hope they laugh and I hope they’re like, oh, wow, this is really silly. I just really don’t think I’ve ever felt this much pride for a project as I have [with this.]
Why do you think you’ve felt the most pride with this project?
Almost every show that I’ve been on has been somebody else’s idea—and it’s fun. ‘The Baking Championships,’ I love them, I love being there and I love working with the kids and getting them more excited about cooking… And ‘Ace of Cakes’ was amazing that was just me and all of my friends just doing our thing. I’ve been on a lot of shows and they’ve all been wonderful for one reason or another, but to be able to have an idea from scratch and just be like, oh, man, wouldn’t this be cool? And then having enough people say, yeah, you know what, that would be cool… and then Food Network and Discovery saying this totally would be cool, let’s do it.
It’s just everybody who worked on the show really cared about it. Everybody gave it their all from the puppeteers, the art department, the Jim Henson Creature Shop, the culinary department, my sous chef, Jeff, who plays our grocer and he comes in and he sings a song every episode because he’s a singer-songwriter—just everybody involved really gave it everything they had…And it just worked, it really worked. I feel really good, I think people are going to really get excited about cooking, about science and just about being curious about life.
‘Duff Goldman’s Happy Fun Bake Time’ is now available to stream on Discovery+