Everyone’s Favorite Cookie Guy: Wes Duckworth’s Story from Escoffier to Entrepreneur

Dive into Wes Duckworth's journey, where resilience, innovation, and a profound love for cookies converge.

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March 18, 2024 9 min read

Ever felt that tug of excitement and possibility, that spark driving you towards a dream? Wes Duckworth, an Escoffier alumnus and Denver-based chef, discovered his ‘sweet spot,’ but the journey wasn’t altogether easy.

Through classroom trials, career stumbles, and an unwavering commitment, he was able to forge an unconventional path as a pastry chef—one peppered with challenges yet deeply fulfilling. But Wes’s story isn’t just about baking; it’s a testament to resilience and an appetite for the extraordinary. Join us as we unravel the tale of this chef-turned-entrepreneur, whose love for baking spun into a mouthwatering success.

Tapping Into the ‘Entrepreneurial’ Gene

As the famed American restaurateur David Chang said, “We’re hoping to succeed; we’re okay with failure. We just don’t want to land in between.” And one can only assume that passion is the driving force to keep us going—that fuel to keep us shooting for the stars—especially as an entrepreneur.

Wes Duckworth sporting culinary attire and grinning from ear to ear.

Wes Duckworth always knew he could thrive as an entrepreneur!

For Wes Duckworth, he knew as a youngster that ‘food’ was his sole passion and always daydreamed about launching his own gig. Running businesses was also in the genes. “My brother owns his own digital marketing company, and he’s done a couple of different things,” Duckworth mentioned. “He’s definitely an entrepreneur— very business-oriented.”

With that contagious entrepreneurial spirit in the air, Wes knew that eventually, he would jump-start something that he could sink his teeth into. But he needed more ground experience (and knowledge) under his belt to launch his own food company.

A Sweet Baking Breakthrough at Escoffier

Wes knew at the ripe age of 16 years old that enrolling in culinary school would be the best ‘next’ move. As he was scoping out his options during the research phase, he quickly discovered that a majority of class time at Escoffier’s Boulder campus would be spent ‘hands-on’ in the kitchen, plus he’d have access to career assistance. These factors, coupled with the affordable cost, quickly put Escoffier on top of his list.**

** Consider your situation and resources to determine what is affordable and on budget, for you.

So during the summer of 2016, he enrolled in Escoffier’s Baking & Pastry program to immerse himself in the scene to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

“[Escoffier] does a really good job of just giving you a really good foundation that you can build off of. I wanted to learn everything and anything I could.”*
Wes Duckworth
Wes Duckworth
Escoffier Boulder Baking and Pastry Graduate and Pastry Chef

Wes recalled just asking as many questions as possible in the classroom to go deeper, especially when it came to the science behind baking warm, fluffy bread, and perfectly chewy, yet crisp cookies. But his love for these types of baked goods didn’t miraculously surface overnight and it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing.

“[Cookies and breads] were actually my hardest things in culinary school,”* Duckworth proclaimed. It just didn’t come naturally to him. In fact, the art of baking bread didn’t ‘click’ until day eight or nine of rigorous classwork. However, that burning desire to ‘get it right’ pushed him to work ten times harder in this area. With little to no time, he found his lane—his specialty. But his drive to continue to learn and better his craft didn’t stop there.

A plate of three golden brown bread rolls.

Students at Escoffier can explore the foundations of bread baking as part of their baking & pastry curriculum.

While balancing his classwork at Escoffier, Wes continuously made an effort to seize as much real-world experience as possible, which opened up opportunities to work at Hyatt Regency Denver as a pastry intern.

“I would walk into random kitchens in Boulder while I was working at the Dushanbe Teahouse and just try to learn different stuff. I’ll work for free if you just teach me,”* Duckworth mentioned. As Wes began to absorb new culinary & pastry knowledge, his confidence simply skyrocketed. With graduation on the horizon, he felt himself inching closer to that light bulb concept for his own company.

Becoming Everyone’s Favorite “Cookie Guy”

Then, a few years post culinary school graduation, the way forward couldn’t be more clear.

“I used to put together cookie boxes for friends and families around Christmas or holidays,” Duckworth said. “I also would take cookies to all my job interviews—it’s the easiest way to put yourself way ahead of the pack.”*

He also reflected on his childhood, when his mom would always bake fresh chocolate chip cookies because they were his absolute favorite. Cookies played an integral role in Wes’ journey and needed to be the focus of his new venture.

So, in 2021, Wes decided to launch “Ducks Dozen”—artisanal cookies baked from scratch and delivered to your doorstep every Saturday. Wes explains that his concept is pretty simple and he strives to keep to a set of core flavors that his customers adore like Almond Butter, Lemon Poppy Seed, Snickerdoodle Swirl, and Maroon Velvet. And occasionally he’ll tinker around with more premium, complex flavors, such as Peppermint Mudslide and Blueberry Oat Muffin.

A plate stacked with four chocolate chip cookies.

Wes prefers to stick to the core flavors his Ducks Dozen customers always love, such as chocolate chip!

He owes a lot of his experimentation prowess to Escoffier. “Escoffier really teaches you the science behind food,” he said. “You understand what each component does down to the molecular level. It’s a lot easier to change recipes or figure out how it’s going to work because baking is chemistry. It’s just knowing what those ingredients are going to do.”*

Wes also embraces that type of ‘experimental spirit’ when it comes to operating and promoting Duck’s Dozen. “I use AI to generate Instagram captions and even an email marketing plan,” Wes said. “[Using Chat GPT] can take a load off.”* As for attracting new customers, he sort of lets his product speak for itself, explaining that “word of mouth” is his most powerful marketing tactic.

“No one knows my name. They just know me as the cookie guy.”*
Wes Duckworth
Wes Duckworth
Escoffier Boulder Baking and Pastry Graduate and Pastry Chef

Needless to say, as Wes began to settle into his entrepreneurial groove with Ducks Dozen, a second idea popped up out of left field—surprisingly outside of the baked goods realm. This glorious vision involved a roaring stadium filled with happy, yet hungry customers.

Serving Comfort Food in a Scratch Kitchen

As a die-hard Broncos fan who just happens to love gourmet food, Wes suddenly envisioned a world where game day concessions extended far beyond lackluster hot dogs and unseasoned fries. What if he could uplevel the ordinary and conceptualize bites where quality ingredients could take center stage?

With that notion in mind, Wes and a team launched Hall & Worth, an electric scratch kitchen located on the fifth level of the Broncos’ stadium. But just like his experience at Escoffier, it wasn’t a hit right out of the gate.

On day one of opening, his menu consisted of dishes with fancier ingredients— completely in line with his vision of offering more gourmet grub. However, his customers weren’t connecting with the concept. “We were getting a ton of questions on what quinoa is, or zucchini or like stuff like that,” Duckworth exclaimed. “We kind of had to pull back on our menu.”

So what did Wes do? He naturally put on his marketing hat and turned to TikTok that opening day to pinpoint the most ‘searched-for’ stadium food. It was clear he had to pivot and dish up more nostalgic bites that people just knew and loved.

Wes Duckworth and a business associate donning navy blue Hall & Worth t-shirts and smiling in a stadium kitchen.

Wes Duckworth and his dad getting ready to serve stadium bites at scratch kitchen Hall & Worth.

The next day, Wes came to the table with a whole new menu—one that turned the spotlight on fresh roast beef sandwiches layered with American cheese and barbeque sauce, gooey Mac & Cheese sprinkled with herbed bread crumbs, hot meatball sliders, and of course, and an endless supply of freshly baked Ducks Dozens cookies. Soon, he witnessed grinning patrons buying into his second attempt … the rest was history.

Wes also discovered something that day that he continues to keep top of mind: to pay attention to customer cues, listen, and never be afraid to recalibrate. Turns out, it’s working like a charm. Today, Wes and his team have a second scratch kitchen up and running at the Rockies stadium and just got accepted into the field club level!

Just Show Up — The Rest Will Fall into Place

For Wes Duckworth, the future remains bright as he continues to push boundaries, open businesses near and dear to his heart, and remain hyper-focused on his one passion—food. He explains that even though what’s up ahead is all unknown, he can bank on one thing.

“I may not be the most talented, I may not be the most skillful. The things I can control is how hard I can work, showing up on time, being present, and just doing it,” Duckworth states.

Like Wes, if you’re ready to take charge of your career and take the next step toward your dream profession, contact our admissions office now!


*This information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors such as geographical region or previous experience.

** Consider your situation and resources to determine what is affordable and on budget, for you.

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