Playing for Pride: Competition Without the Prize — Duff Goldman’s Take on Duff Till Dawn

by in Shows, January 23rd, 2015

Duff Goldman
Duff Goldman’s new show, premiering Thursday, Jan. 29 at 10:30|9:30c (with a sneak peek Sunday, Jan. 25 at 11|10c), might be the first of its kind: a competition show with no final prize, no money, nothing, nada, zilch, except for the Golden Whisk, the only physical reward. On Duff Till Dawn, it’s not $10,000 or $25,000 on the line; it’s pride. The Golden Whisk, well, it’s just the proverbial icing on the cake. It’s just about as good as any award show statuette, as any of the winning bakers is free to rub it in other bakers’ faces, having earned bragging rights. But at the bottom of it all, “it’s a really fresh take on competition,” Duff said, where everyone gets to show off what they can do.

FN Dish caught up with the artiste extraordinaire, owner of Charm City Cakes and maker of epically awesome cakes, to talk about the concept of the new show, actually competing from dusk till dawn in his bakery and why there is no monetary reward.

FN Dish: Can you talk about the concept of Duff Till Dawn and how it came about?
Duff Goldman: The concept of the show was really to give cake decorators a platform to show off and to be able to do so in a competitive environment that doesn’t kind of throw a monkey wrench at them. Cake decorating itself is a very different discipline than cooking. And you can’t approach a cake decorating competition like you do a cooking competition. It’s a totally different mindset. It’s a different process. Having competed so many times myself there’s always the little things, like, “Man, I wish the competition was like this.” Really what the show is, is kind of like years of me doing market research as a competitor and putting together a competition that really is geared so everybody succeeds. … So that’s what we’re really trying to do, to show people the inherent drama of what it is to decorate a cake, while at the same time making sure that everybody was able to do their best work.

What’s different about this show, and how does your role fit in?
DG: One of the things that I really enjoyed about this show is, as the host and the judge, I really got to be involved, where with a lot of competition shows the judges are sitting behind the table. … This is very different in that I’m mingling with the competitors the entire time of the competition, the full eight hours that we’re doing it. … That’s something you don’t really see on a competition show. Most of them, there’s a money prize at the end of it. Because there’s not on Duff Till Dawn, that competing for a check has gone away, and it’s competing for pride and it’s making the best cake. But what it does, it allows me to get in there and really help the competitors if something is going wrong, or it also allows the competitors to show me how to do stuff that I don’t know how to do. … I think it really humanizes not only the competitors but also the judges.

Like you mentioned, there is no monetary prize on Duff Till Dawn. Do you think that releases the pressures of competing?
DG: I think it does. … People are competing because they love what they do and they want to be the best at what they do. They don’t just want to fill in the criteria of a cake needs to be this tall or this wide or this heavy or has to have this. There are very few rules, and because there are very few rules, people are really able to be creative and do whatever that it is they do. Everybody has a specialty, like some people make monsters, some people make tall beautiful floral wedding cakes. We really tried to make sure that people that are competing for different categories were well-suited to do that. Because we took the money out of it, it made it so much more real — and so much more this is for pride, this is for love of the craft, this is what we do. And it’s for fun.

What can we, as viewers, expect to see from the show?
DG: As you watch the show, what I think people will take away from this is, “I really want to go and watch this being taped, because that looks like fun.” And it is taped in front of a live audience. Like, everybody is there, everybody’s cheering, everybody’s loopy, because we’re literally going from dusk till dawn. And we’re judging. And by the end of it, the sun is up and we’re all like … making dumb jokes. It’s really funny. But I think it’s a really fresh take on competition.

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