A chat with the Cake Boss | Events

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A chat with the Cake Boss

"I was born for baking," says Buddy Valastro in his new book, "Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia" (Free Press, $25.99) which hit stores in early November. The star of the hit TLC reality show "Cake Boss," Valastro, 33, is a fourth-generation master baker born in Hoboken, New Jersey, where his family bakery Carlo's Bake Shop is located.   

Buddy Valastro— also known as "The Cake Boss"— is bringing his 17-city road show "Bakin' with the Boss Tour" to Seattle at The Moore Theatre, 7pm on November 20, along with a book signing at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park at 12:30pm on the same day. More than just cakes, fondants and pies, Buddy's live interactive show and new book explore family dynamics, following your passion and living the American Dream.  

Life didn't come easy for the Cake Boss. Buddy took charge of the family bakery when he was 17 years old, after his father suddenly passed away. Buddy dropped out of high school to run the family business and he has worked at the bakery ever since. Years of hard work eventually paid off. Buddy got his start on TV after appearing several times on "Food Network Challenge," then "Cake Boss" got off the ground.  

Buddy found time in between filming a hit show now in its fourth season, book signing appearances and a national tour to chat about his new ventures, the search for the next great baker and Oprah.

What makes "Cake Boss" so popular and how is it different from other food-based reality shows?
Though people sometimes refer to the "Cake Boss" as a cooking show or a baking show, I think it's really a family show and that's why we fit so well on TLC as a family network. (Buddy runs the bakery with the help of his mother, sisters and brothers-in-law.)  I think the secret to our success is that we have a great family dynamic. And it doesn't hurt that we make great cakes too. 

How has Carlo's Bake Shop changed since the show?
It's definitely gotten busier because of the show. We were a busy bakery before, but now we're a busy bakery on steroids.

What can people expect at the "Bakin' with the Boss" live show?
I came up with the idea after speaking at a culinary school at Hudson Community College (Jersey City, NJ). After the speech, people came up to me and said, "Your story is so inspiring. You should do this more." And that's how "Bakin' with the Boss" tour started. At the live show, people can volunteer or I call people from the audience and they decorate cakes with me. For example, I'll make a cupcake and challenge people to make it. While they're decorating, I make jokes and poke fun. Because I'm a funny guy, I'm from Jersey. I'll let the audience vote and the winner gets a prize. 

I also talk about my story which is a condensed version of my book. My story is really the story of the American Dream— starting with my father, his struggles and how he became who he was. When I was 17, my dad died and I had to drop out of school to run the family business. There were a lot of things that happened before I became the Cake Boss. "Bakin' with the Boss" is a family show where you can bring a four-year old to or an eighty-year old.

You started production for "Next Great Baker," a spin-off to the bakery reality show pitting 10 pastry chefs to earn the title and win the prize. What does it take to be a great baker?
That means they have to know how to decorate a cake, they have to know how to bake and it has to taste good. I put them through the ringer of the Hoboken-style I was taught. I can have them be cleaning. I can have them be making a cake and making cookies and pies. To be a great baker, you have to work hard and be willing to do anything from scrubbing the toilet to making a fancy wedding cake and everything in between. There are so much facets of what makes a great baker, and it's my version of it. The winner gets to work with me at Carlo's Bake Shop and win $50,000. I was a little hard on the contestants the first couple of episodes, but by the end they were like family. I wanted them to get better after this experience and I think they're all going to be. I was rooting for all of them and it was really hard to choose.  

You mentioned the Hoboken way of baking.  What way is that?
Old school. It's baking the old-fashioned way. We don't take any shortcuts. It has to taste good. If it tastes bad, I will tell you that it sucks. It is the way it is. 

What do you think are some of the common pitfalls that bakers make?
If people are not versatile— if they just want to be cake decorators or just want to bake. I'm an all-around, full-fledge, 100% baker. I can bake it, I can cut it, I can fill it, I can ice it, I can decorate it and I can deliver it. A great baker has to be well-rounded. Don't get fixated on just one facet.

Your appearance on Oprah's ‘Dream Jobs’ episode was very emotional for you— it was a dream fulfilled to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show and to bake a cake for her. What was that experience like?
That was a perfect segment for me. I love what I do. Before I got on the show, I had to speak to the Oprah people about my life, what I do and how I do it, and boom, they told me to come on up. At the end, I presented a cake to her (designed after Oprah's favorite oak tree). She got me teary-eyed, but it came from the heart. 

So, what else is next for you besides the new book, a 17-city live show and book tour, two reality TV shows, a new pizzeria and a 30,000-square-foot bakery warehouse that can ship baked goods all over the country?
I'm working on book two right now. Book one is kind of like the road show: I want people to come to the show, read the book and be inspired. It's the story of the American Dream, about determination and work ethics. My next book is more about school of baking, Buddy-style— the way I learned to be a baker. I'm very excited. I'm writing book two now and filming "Cake Boss," so I'm a busy guy.

It's your first trip to Seattle.  What are you most looking forward to when you get here?
I want to see the Space Needle. When people go to New York, they want to see the Empire State Building. In Seattle, I want to see the Space Needle.

Buddy Valastro's "Bakin' with the Boss Tour" stops at The Moore Theatre, 1932 2nd Avenue, Seattle, on Saturday, November 20 at 7pm. Tickets are $28.50-$48.50, available at buddyontour.com or stgpresents.org. Info: (206) 682-1414.

Valastro will sign copies of his book "Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia" also on November 20, 12:30pm at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE in Lake Forest Park. Info: (206) 366-3333.

"Cake Boss" airs Mondays at 9pm; "Next Great Baker" premiers December 6, both on TLC.