The new season of TLC’s ‘Cake Boss‘ premieres tonight and we had a chance to speak with the boss himself, Buddy Valastro, while he was on break from filming a cake event for the 40th anniversary of ‘Sesame Street.’ He chatted with us about this season’s biggest cakes, baking disasters, and how he took over the family business at 17.
Oh and his favorite monster resident from ‘Sesame Street’? “Cookie Monster of course.”
On your blog you commented said, “Season two, the cakes get insane. It’s nuts. We really push the bar.” Can you elaborate on that?
I really feel like I pushed myself this season. I’m trying cakes I probably never would’ve tried before. Just to see if we can pull it off and see if we can do it. It really becomes do or die. I’m defying gravity, defying size and everything else. I made a cake in the shape of a NASCAR that’s actual size. It’s the craziest and best work I’ve ever done.
Why did you decide to go the extra mile and make a cake so large and push your talents to the limit?
Well the Retail Bakers Association of America, which I’m a member of and help out a lot, really wanted me to give them a big spark and bring people back. My show is actually really good for bakeries. People want to go back to the old fashioned bakery. They don’t want to go to the supermarket or other commercialized places, they want to go where their parents went to.
It’s a different skill. It’s all from scratch. So many people come up to me and tell me, ‘Buddy thank god, you’re doing so much for the industry.’ When I hear things like that it makes me feel good. So when they asked me to do something with the show, I knew I had to do it. I’ve done demos before but this was something big and they wanted me to do this big thing.
Was that your favorite cake from this season?
It was definitely the most difficult. I tell you the truth, I don’t know if you can hear it in my voice but I’m still recovering from that trip. I worked 20 hours straight for four days. I’m more comfortable with the smaller ones, the more ornate ones where you do your own decorations. I like the wedding cakes [laughs]. Yeah I get to do these crazy things, which I don’t mind doing. The show follows the crazier cakes, which I know it’s television, but I also love that we have 50 wedding cakes going too.
Have you had any nightmare customers this season or did you have an easy time with everyone?
I actually had no nightmare customers this season. You know that stuff comes in stages. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t.
Were there any cake disasters this season?
Yeah we had a couple cake disasters. Whenever we makes a cake, we always send it a couple of hours earlier just in case something happens. Something happens, you pull all hands on deck; you scramble and you try to get it done. I think we had two or three. I think partially it was due to pushing to the limits and time constraints. I’m still learning things as I go along, even though I’m the cake boss. You see what you can do to fix it and what’s going to work or what’s not going to work.
Have you seen a difference this year in your business because of how things are with the economy?
Well business has actually increased this year, because of the show. We haven’t really felt anything with the recession. I think when people are on hard times they don’t skimp out on the comfort stuff. They think, ‘Well maybe I’m not going to buy a new $500 pair of shoes, but I’ll get a cupcake.” We’ve been lucky enough not to be hit with the recession. It’s funny though because my business is almost 100 years old — think about how many ups and downs that bakery has seen.
I read in your biography that you took over the bakery when you were 17 because your father died. Was it something that you wanted to do or did you feel obligated to step up to the responsibility and take over the family business?
I knew I was going to go into the business, I just didn’t know I was going to so soon. We found out he had stage three cancer and that’s when I made the decision to drop out [of high school] and he died three weeks later. So it was kind of like one of those things I had to do. By the time that started happening, I already had my mind and my focus on the business more than schoolwork. It was probably for the best anyway.
Do you see yourself passing the business off to your kids or do you want them to go into baking and the business on their own?
I want them to find it on their own. I can already see who is more creative out of all my children, who is going to be able to do it, and who is not. I want them to have it easier. I want America to know yeah I’m a great baker and I have a great business but I work like an animal and I always have. I work six or seven days a week and you don’t really have a lot of down time.
I’d rather my kids have a job that’s five days a week and they work nine to five. My workday is never like that and then you go home and something breaks. It’s always ‘Buddy! This is wrong. Buddy! This happened.’ Do I really want that for my kids? No. But then there’s the passion part of it like when I finish a cake and I get a great reaction, there’s no better feeling in the world. Inevitably, it’s going to come down to them.