Born to bake

Food for thought

Born to bake

He is the undisputed king of cakes, whose over-the-top extravagant sugary creations have grabbed eyeballs in the US and have made him a TV sensation all over the world. Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr is an Italian American celebrity chef, entrepreneur, author and television personality known for his popular shows Kitchen Boss, Cake Boss and The Next Great Baker.

Coming from a family of bakers, Buddy is the fourth generation baker and owner of Carlos Bakery, which started out as a small town shop in Hoboken, New Jersey only to grow into a million dollar 11-store empire under the celebrity chef’s skilful tutelage.

Sweet beginnings

Buddy had a typical Italian American upbringing and started working for his father from the age of 11. “I started very early in the industry. When I was 11, my dad told me, ‘You have to come to work in the shop and you have to learn work ethics.’ He never said to me, ‘You have to become a baker like me.’ He wanted me to learn to be a man and learn how to work. It is his teaching that helped me become a good baker who loves his job and is determined to make the best cakes.”
His father’s wise words certainly shaped Buddy’s career and made him realise that baking was indeed his dream job. So, what is his favourite part about baking? “I fell in love with the process of cake decorating,” he says without a shadow of doubt. Buddy explains that the process is quite calming and he is always in a “zone” when he is embellishing a cake with a certain focus and vision in mind. “At that moment, nothing else matters in the world,” he exclaims. And Buddy literally takes the cake with his stunning artful creations that look too good to eat!

All the cake-making drama can be witnessed on Buddy’s most popular show Cake Boss, which is all about his crazy cakes and oodles of family theatrics. From sibling rivalry to competing co-workers, the series is a behind-the-scene glimpse of how Carlos Bakery functions and the massive amount of work (apart from the sugar) that goes in the making of sweet treats.

Family matters

Having lost his father at 17, the responsibility of handling the bakery business fell on Buddy’s young shoulders. That’s when family dynamics came in to play. But working with your family can’t be easy. How does this 38-year-old master baker manage his opinionated kin? “Family is the best support one has when you are going up in your business. Working with the family has got its ups and downs. A lot more good than bad; you know nobody’s going to work harder than your family, or care more. Having said that, the family takes things personally, and you can’t take everything that happens in business personally. Running your old family business is not at all easy, it can be tiring. There are times when I get frustrated with my family and work, too. But my endeavor is to keep our work differences aside and focus on the work. You are always going to have speed bumps and you will have to deal with it and make things work.”

Unlike many celebrity chefs who go for extraordinarily complicated dishes, on his other show Kitchen Boss, Buddy tends to explore simple hearty Italian flavours. And his show, The Next Great Baker, sees him as a tough man to impress, as he mentors upcoming bakers with an iron fist. “I’m just ecstatic that people in 220 countries watch and love my shows on TLC, and we’re going to keep making them. I try to inspire people with my food, as it brings families together.” His word of advice to aspiring bakers is plain and simple, “A good baker should keep evolving and keep inventing. Passion and hard work go hand in hand. A good baker isn’t afraid to try new things and experiment with the flavours.”

Thousands and thousands of cakes later, what motivates him to keep going with the television shows and burgeoning business? “I feel that I’m successful because I still love what I do and after all these years, and all these cakes, I still get that feeling of self-worth and satisfaction each time I finish a project. So I definitely know that I’m in the right business,” says the man for whom comfort food (you guessed it!) is cakes and puddings.

Catch all the cake-making action, as the new season of Cake Boss airs Monday-Friday at 7 pm, on TLC.

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