Buddy vs. Duff season 3 just premiered on Food Network, and the latest round of competitive baking has made clear that this show is food nerds’ equivalent to Cobra Kai.
For the uninitiated: Buddy vs. Duff features Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman, the hugely popular stars of Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes respectively, as they challenge each other to produce incredible cakes. Each week features a theme that Buddy, Duff and their teams must bring to life in the most spectacular way possible—and then their work is placed in front of a panel of judges who give them points in the overall competition. The person with the most points at the end of the season wins, and Buddy vs. Duff season 3 is particularly important as it’s the tiebreaker.
That’s not too far removed from Cobra Kai, the Emmy-nominated sequel to the Karate Kid franchise. Daniel Larusso (played by Ralph Macchio) and his rival Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) are all grown up, and while they’ve matured, they’re still competitive with each other. Each of them have their own philosophies and their own dojos—Miyagi-do and Eagle Fang respectively—and they find themselves mentoring the next generation, especially after Johnny’s evil ex-mentor John Kreese (Martin Kove) resurfaces.
While Buddy and Duff aren’t getting into an actual fight, they’re the Daniel and Johnny of the kitchen. Like Daniel, Buddy Valastro is a New Jersey native who’s got bucketloads of charm and has worked his tail off to become a successful businessman with a wonderful family. While Duff is much better off than Johnny, both are the more rebellious, less formal type and the Buddy vs. Duff season 3 premiere reminded viewers that Duff now lives in Los Angeles, creating a similar East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry.
Duff and Buddy also have their own distinct styles; Duff focuses more on intricate details while Buddy likes to build massive showstoppers. And both bakers have their teams that they rally every week to make their insane creations.
What truly drives the Cobra Kai comparison home, though, is the dynamic audiences enjoy every week on Buddy vs. Duff. While Buddy and Duff are different in so many ways viewers can see the mutual respect they possess for one another and how they push each other to be their best.
Anyone who’s watched Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes knows that Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman are the two best bakers on the planet. But what they’ve done on Buddy vs. Duff is on a whole other level. Last season, Duff and his team built a St. Patrick’s Cathedral cake that people could see inside of, while Buddy and his squad crafted a carnival cake that was a fully functioning ride. They wouldn’t have done these things anywhere else; they were both rising to the level of their competition. And not only are they doing it, but they enjoy doing it.
These two guys understand that they have a unique chemistry together. Audiences who saw last week’s “Preheat” special heard directly from Buddy how Duff was the first person to reach out to him after his terrible accident, and saw both of them discuss how much Buddy vs. Duff takes out of them. They’re not just rivals for TV like so many other cooking shows; they truly care about each other and put so much of themselves into this competition. It matters to them and that makes it matter to the viewers. Just like Daniel Larusso and Johnny Lawrence, theirs is a one of a kind dynamic that nobody else can touch.
Plus, kudos should also be given to Team Buddy and Team Duff, because it’s become just as fun to get to know the bakers and artists who show up every week to enable these two geniuses. The admiration slash competition between Buddy’s head sculptor Ralph Attanasia and Duff’s cake artist Natalie Sideserf is a joy to watch, and the momentary interludes where the two teams check in with each other via TV monitor have become more fun than intimidating. It’s clear that these people would all go have a drink with each other after the battle and we want to go hang out with them.
While that’s not going to happen, we can enjoy new episodes of Buddy vs. Duff over the next several weeks. It’s heartwarming to see a competition series that comes from such a good place, and like Cobra Kai, it’s addictive to watch what these two rivals are going to do next.
Buddy vs. Duff airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.