Buddy Valastro is best known as the star of TLC’s wildly popular “Cake Boss” program. Mixing traditional recipes with modern design, Valastro is a man who lives on the cutting edge of culinary arts. In addition to whipping up incredible edibles on cable TV, Valastro has penned a new book about how he made Carlo’s Bakery a household name. Valastro is currently on tour, giving away the tricks of the trade in his live show “Baking with the Boss.” We asked Buddy about the Cake Boss empire, the must-haves for home bakers and how he “treats” himself.
Your new book “Cake Boss” is a combination of the story of how you became one of television’s most admired bakers paired with some your recipes. How did you decide which recipes to share with the public and which ones to keep top-secret?
Buddy Valastro: I tried to include a combination of recipes that were popular in my show and ones that are easy for the home baker to make. Some of the items (like lobster tails) are difficult to make at home but I still wanted everyone to be able to try it.
How has your baking changed since starting the show on TLC? Have you had to compromise your creativity or has it encouraged you to step outside your comfort zone?
BV: My recipes have pretty much stayed the same, but our decorating is at an all-time creative high. We've been replicating a lot of buildings for companies, which is always a creative challenge. I've also noticed that a lot of our cake orders are non-traditional; just this weekend we took orders for an Alice in Wonderland-inspired wedding cake and a bar mitzvah comic book cake. We're always trying new things, new ways to use edible materials creatively.
Some of your cakes look like they’re as much about baking skills as they are about engineering. How did you learn the construction part of creating cakes?
BV: Trial and error! Like most of my skills at the bakery, I learned how to do the frame work by learning from how other people used the tools. My brother-in-law, Mauro, worked in construction before the bakery and knows a lot about the engineering aspects of the cakes.
Despite the occasional drama on the show, you seem like a very positive person. How do you stay humble, happy and grounded in the midst of all this success and your professional obligations?
BV: It's all about family. We work together all day and then go home and make a big dinner. We might fight, but at the end of the day we're family and that's the most important thing to me.
For many of your fans, baking is a hobby and pastries are occasional treats. You bake day in, day out and could eat cake 24/7 if you wanted. If you had an entire day to yourself, what would your idea of indulgence be? How would you spoil yourself?
BV: I would love to sit at home all day and play with my kids. It's my favorite thing to do in my time off. All of my family is so close. We're always over each other's houses.
What do you miss most about your life, pre-fame?
BV: I'm still just a baker from New Jersey. The only change is that I get to share my passion with the world. I love meeting with fans of the show and hearing how we inspired them to make a special cake or dessert.
Who is at the top of your “I want to bake a cake for you” list?
BV: I've met so many great people, but my favorite cakes are always for the kids. My four kids mean the world to me and I love making other kids smile. That's why I love doing the live show; having the opportunity to create a fun, educational family night.
Is culinary school worth the dough for aspiring bakers?
BV: I think that there is a lot to learn in this industry, whether you go to school or become an apprentice. I learned everything from my dad and I always encourage hands-on learning because it is the best way to learn technique.
Who do you turn to for pastry-related advice?
BV: Sal [a long-time employee of Carlo’s Bakery who passed away] was a great mentor and taught me a lot about the art of baking. One of the first jobs I had in the bakery was working with the pastries and learning to “pull” lobster tails. I mostly focus on cakes now, but I have a talented team of guys that have been working here for a long time. My brother-in-law Joey is in charge of the “oven room.”
Name the five best tools for home bakers.
BV: A good mixer, rolling pin, utensils (measuring cups, spatulas, etc), high-quality ingredients and a good attitude! No matter what the recipe, any baker can do wonders in the kitchen with some good ingredients and an upbeat attitude!
Minnesotans can get a taste of Buddy's jaw-dropping baking skills when he comes to the Orpheum Theatre on Nov. 15.
Published on Metromix Twin Cities in Nov. 2011