THE CAKE BOSS – EVERYBODY’S BUDDY
For Buddy Valastro, 36, mixing eggs, sugar, butter and flour means a lot more than “making a cake.” As a fourth generation baker, creating amazing cakes connects Buddy with the memory of his father Buddy Sr. and his extended Italian family history. His talent and passion for the family business, Carlo’s Bakery, has earned the straight-talking cake expert the moniker, and TLC TV show, Cake Boss™.
Icing Bonds this Family Together
Buddy, Sr., the original Cake Boss, followed in the path of his father and grandfather, both bakers in Sicily, and bought Carlo’s Bakery from Carlo Guastaffero in 1963. Twenty-five years later, he moved Carlo’s Bakery to its current location on Washington Street in Hoboken. The relocation allowed the bakery to grow its customer base and was part of Buddy Sr.’s dream to make Carlo’s a household name.
Buddy and his four older sisters were raised in Little Ferry, NJ. When Buddy was 11, he began working at the family bakery alongside his father. In those precious years, his dad passed on his wealth of baking knowledge and instilled in him a cast iron business sense and a drive for success.
The Start of a New Era
It was at the bakery that Buddy found his calling and knew his destiny was to help his father make the family business a household name. He didn’t realize how soon he would be called to action. When he was 17, his father passed way, forever changing Buddy’s life. Drawing on the strength of his memory, it was time for Buddy to step up to the role he had been primed for and become the new Cake Boss.
Not only did Buddy lose his best friend and greatest source of encouragement, some of Carlo’s Bakery’s secret signature baking techniques were also gone – but not for long. When Buddy’s father died, the bakery struggled to create the sfogliatelle dough used to make one of their signature items, Lobster Tails, until Buddy’s father came to him in a dream and showed him how to master the technique. Buddy went to work the next day and for the first time was able to create the nearly impossible sfogliatelle dough. From that point on, Buddy knew he could do anything he put his mind to and felt comfort in the fact that his father was looking down on him.
Finding his Calling
If his father’s vision was to be realized, Buddy needed to exercise his business savvy and create a point of difference to help Carlo’s Bakery stand out against the competition. “I wanted to be creative and I thought if I can make cakes that don’t look like normal cakes, but taste the way my dad’s cakes tasted, then I might be onto something.” With that revelation, designer cakes became the next specialty for Carlo’s Bakery. Catering to celebrity palettes like Oprah, his works of cake-art have included a giant edible NASCAR racecar cake (it took 24,000 cakes to make it and weight over 10,000 pounds) and his magnum opus – a life-size tribute to his wife, business partner and soul mate Lisa, for her 30th birthday. He has recently opened up a second Carlo’s Bakery location in Ridgewood, NJ.
Being the Cake Boss
Carlo’s Bakery had always been well known for its incredible wedding cakes and over the years, Buddy’s creations were frequently featured in bridal magazines. As a result of this exposure, Buddy was invited to participate on Food Network Challenge in 2004. Over the next few years he competed in four Food Network Challenge cake competitions. After losing his first three battles, Buddy took top prize on “Battle of the Brides.”
Buddy’s appearances on Food Network Challenge were only the start of his foray into television. Buddy knew this was his chance to make Carlo’s Bakery known worldwide. He used his connections to pitch a show featuring himself, Lisa, his four sisters and his mom, a.k.a., the “Boss Boss”, as they go about their daily frenetic routine running the shop. Executives at TLC had seen Buddy on TV before and took notice. They agreed to shoot a pilot at the bakery. TLC loved the show and immediately ordered 12 more episodes. Cake Boss became an instant hit with audiences and Season 6 premiered on TLC in May.
Keeping it in the Family
Buddy has made it his mission to diversify the business’ success while staying true to the heritage of Carlo’s Bakery. The family and the community were important to Buddy Sr. Every year he donated zeppoles to Saint Joseph’s Church in Jersey City and baked St. Anthony’s loaves for the St. Francis Church in Hoboken. Buddy maintains this practice today. He is also a proud honorary board member of Make-a-Wish Foundation and was named as the organization’s Celebrity of the Year in 2011. He also started his own non-profit, the “Momma Mary Foundation” to give back to those suffering from ALS. Buddy is now a father himself to three sons and a daughter (all of which are ten years old and under).
No Limit on Success
While Cake Boss has helped make Carlo’s Bakery popular with tourists, it was well known even before the show began airing. Locals often lined up out the door under the simple “Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop” sign in Hoboken, eager for a piece of the pie. Each week, the business averages around 60 wedding cakes, 500 birthday cakes, hundreds of cannolis and more. Ernst & Young has also recognized Buddy for his extraordinary success and personal commitment to his businesses and community by honoring Buddy as Humanitarian of the Year.
Buddy’s television success continues to grow – Cake Boss is now in its 6th season! In December 2010, TLC premiered the spin-off series, Next Great Baker, now airing Season 3, where Buddy challenged bakers to compete for a chance to work alongside the Valastro family at Carlo’s. A new series, Bakery Boss, will air December 2013 and features Buddy providing guidance and expertise to struggling family bakeries across the country.
The Cake Boss Hits Stores Nationwide… And Times Square!
Fans everywhere can’t get enough of Buddy and his family and this is proven time and time again with successful product launches.
Buddy’s first two books, Cake Boss, Stories and Recipes from Mia Familiglia (Free Press, Nov. 2010) and Baking with the Boss: 100 of Buddy’s best Recipes and Decorating Secrets (Atria Books, Nov. 2011), are New York Times best-sellers and have led to highly successful follow-ups. Last holiday season, he released Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss (Atria Books, Nov. 2012) and this holiday season, Buddy released a fourth and fifth book, The Essential Cake Boss: Recipes & Techniques You Absolutely Have to Know to Bake Like the Boss (Atria Books, Oct. 2013) and Family Celebrations with the Cake Boss: Recipes for Get-Togethers Throughout the Year (Free PressAtria Books, Nov. 2013), sharing the best party recipes for different occasions with fans. Buddy continues to bring the pages of stories and tips to life on stage via his highly successful holiday baking tour – Family Celebrations. To give Cake Boss fans a real taste for what Carlo’s can offer, Buddy has built a 50,000 square foot baking facility in Jersey City, The Lackawanna Factory, that allows him to fulfill one of his (and his father’s) life-long dreams – to ship his produce across the country.
Following the success of the series, Buddy has also teamed up with TLC’s Consumer Products division to extend the Cake Boss brand to consumers. Last summer, a line of ready-to-sell Cake Boss cakes, in partnership with Dawn Foods, launched at grocery store bakeries nationwide and will be followed by a line of cupcakes and, fondant cakes, packaged mixes and icings this year. To give fans the authentic Cake Boss experience, Buddy and TLC opened the Cake Boss Cafe in Times Square, New York in January 2013, allowing diners to experience the delectable desserts found at Carlo’s Bakery. This year, he will continue to extend the brand beyond the show, with the launch of Cake Boss stationery and party goods and a full line of branded bake ware, including cake pans, decorating tools, dessert plates and more, with product for all levels of expertise.
The true origin of the charming and humble baker’s unwavering dedication comes from his father’s handed down teachings. So, how does a man who has already achieved so much continue to find inspiration? Simple. “I can see cakes in anything. I just open my eyes.”