Food shows are everything―they take up most of my time if I get the chance to watch TV. One show in particular is Cake Boss, it makes me fascinated at how they pull off amazing cake creations.
Buddy Valastro and his big family make each episode fun. There’s also the occasional bickering between him and his sisters. Moving past that, Buddy still makes sure that everything’s in place in their bakery―he said as much when we interviewed him during the TLC Appreciation Night.
While Buddy, along with his wife Lisa were in Manila for a weekend food fair, we took the chance to chat with him about what goes on in their famous bakery and their plans for the next few years.
How did you get into baking?
My dad owned [Carlo’s Bakery] so I started baking when I was 11 years old. I started going to work with him and enjoyed it, started getting good at it. Before you know it, I said, “I want to be a baker.” I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.
What can you say is the traditional Italian way of baking?
You know, just making the old-fashioned Italian desserts using quality ingredients. Doing it the old-fashioned way, making everything fresh―that’s the traditional Italian way.
What’s one important thing you’ve learned from your elders which helped a lot in your business?
One of the things that my dad taught me is that you have to take the same amount of pride in cleaning a toilet bowl as you do in making a wedding cake. And, if you want your employees to work hard, you have to be willing to work harder than them. If you expect them to go down on their hands and knees to scrub the floors, you have to. So, my dad taught me to be the porter or the guy who cleans the toilet bowl because he wanted me to know what it was like. Because of that experience, I’m a better boss today―I’m good to everybody and I work hard and I don’t care.
How is it working with your family in the bakery?
I mean, it’s good and bad, right? But nobody’s going to work harder. Sometimes the good outweighs the bad, sometimes you fight. Although it’s challenging, it’s so rewarding. And you can trust your family to watch out for the business and take care of it.
How do you make sure that family problems stay out of the bakery?
You can’t. You got to settle the problems when they arise. I want people to be in check and in line, and make sure everything’s resolved.
If given the chance, would you hire other people instead of your family members?
No. I’d still hire [my family] 100 percent.
When and how did you start making wild cakes?
I started to see these beautiful wedding cakes being built and they were on magazines. I said, “Send me some of that fondant stuff. I want to try it.” Because I knew that my cakes tasted good but I knew that if I get them to look like that, it was a recipe for success. So trial and error, I started doing it in 1997, and over the years it’s gotten better and better.
What’s the wildest cake you’ve created so far?
A Transformer cake.
Name one innovative baking tool which changed the game for you.
I’m not going to say a tool [but] an ingredient. Fondant and modeling chocolate has changed a cake decorator’s life. Those mediums allow us to make the most insane cakes ever.
In the future, do you see Carlo’s Bakery growing even more?
Within five years I want to have bakeries in every continent. Hopefully here in the Philippines as well, why not?
Would you also use Filipino ingredients?
Of course! I mean, if I was to come here, not only would I bring the best we have in the US, but I’d definitely marry it with the Filipino culture and flavors. [I also want to] bring in some Filipino desserts.
What Filipino dessert would you like to learn to make? Would you put an Italian spin on it?
The bread―ensaymada. I want to learn that. I don’t know if it needs an Italian spin on it since it tastes so delicious. I think that anybody who’s going to eat this is going to love it. Some things you just keep it the way it is. I’ll just make a bigger version of it.
Aside from cakes, what else do you like to bake during your spare time?
Pastries, pies, cookies… I’m a full-fledged baker so you name it, I’ll bake it. (Laughs)
What’s your kids’ favorite?
Chocolate chip cookies
What’s one dish you can eat forever?
My wife’s eggplant parmiggiano.
Photo courtesy of Buddy Valastro’s Instagram account