The Cake Boss, Part Two: Buddy Valastro on Why He's Damn Proud to Be an American
Buddy Valastro, better known as The Cake Boss from TLC's hit show of the same name, will be in Houston on November 11 as part of his second international tour. He'll be speaking at Jones Hall through the Society for the Performing Arts.
Yesterday, we talked to Valastro about the lack of emphasis on experience over education -- especially in the food industry -- and the importance of small businesses in America. Today, we continue that discussion, and Valastro gives us an answer to the question: "What the hell is the Cake Boss going to do on stage for two hours?"
First, Valastro finishes his thoughts on federal bailouts, stimulus money and the recent Solyndra scandal.
Buddy Valastro: If someone's gonna go under, let 'em go under. If Carlo's Bakery is gonna go under, no one's gonna come bail me out. I'm a big believer in small businesses gotta wake up and be able to compete. The money is not getting to us. Inevitably, I got my loan. But if I'm having a hard time getting a loan? I had to basically sign over my first born. It's just nuts.
EOW: Are these topics that you want to discuss more publicly? That you want to bring larger attention to?
BV: [chuckles] I wish I had the time to. But I do feel bad for this country. Like I said, my dad, my parents came here with nothing. And they worked hard, and they were able to make a living, like a lot of other Americans. But, you know, we gotta get back to manufacturing. And you know what? We gotta cripple the importing in this country. We've gotta say, "Okay. If it's made in China, we're gonna tax it enough to where when it comes to America, it's like an American company made it. And inevitably, it's gonna hurt us at first, but we'll recover.
EOW: Well, we priced ourselves out of the market, so to speak.
BV: Yeah. We do not make anything here anymore. Look at the sugar markets. I'm a baker. You know that we cannot buy sugar from different places in the world? I mean, we have to buy it from one place. So I can go to Canada and import fondant for cheaper because Canada can go buy its sugar from anywhere in the world.
EOW: Where is the sugar coming from here in America?
BV: Who knows? This, that. Florida? It's all a scam. How does a solar panel company [Solyndra] get half a billion dollars...
BV: Yeah. They should've just gave those half a billion dollars to the people. All the money they spend on stimulus, if they gave that to every American and said, "Here. You can pay off debts, you can do this or that..."
EOW: Paying off debts would be a big help...
BV: There's a lot of things we could do with it, just not the way it is. It's not Republican or Democrat, you know. It's everyone. One problem is that we need people who are going to do what's right for everybody, you know? How much more do you want to pay? If you're given 50 cents of every dollar you make, is that fair? How much more can they take? Every dollar? It hurts, because you know what? For someone like me to get that money, I would buy shit. I would do things that stimulate the economy. But where is it going? It's going back into bullshit like solar panel companies that are going out of business.
EOW: Speaking of sugar earlier, have you seen rising food costs really affect your company?
BV: Well, I'm in a different ballgame because I'm not the average bakery. But it definitely hurts.
EOW: And the factory? How is that coming along?
BV: The factory is open! It's 50,000 square feet. Currently, I have 150 to 160 employees. My plan within the next two or three years once I get shipping up and running is to have 300 or 400 employees.
EOW: How incredibly proud do you think your dad would be of you today?
BV: Oh, very proud. I'm proud! Because you know what? I'm helping my state, I'm helping the economy and we're talking about all different kinds of jobs. Not just factory workers, but executives. I'm building a brand.
BV: Something from the ground up, and you know - I'm happy. I'm damn proud to be an American. I really am. And I believe in the American dream. I believe that I'm living the American dream. It's just that we have to get this country back on track because the future looks very vague. I don't know what's coming.
EOW: It's funny, you know - this entire conversation has reminded me of why my father loves your show so much. Your show is the only food-oriented show that he will sit down and watch.
EOW: Do you feel like Cake Boss is a more masculine show?
BV: It is. It makes guys okay to watch a cooking show. Guys definitely watch the show. My favorite part is that it brings families together.
EOW: Oh yeah - we sit and watch it together.
BV: Yeah! People sit and watch with their parents. And you know what? It shows that sometimes families fight and argue, but in the end we all love each other.
BV: So that's it, you know? Everybody works hard and we do what we do.
EOW: For as hard as you work, is it difficult to get past the idea that the art you guys create is just demolished? Does it make you more daring, knowing that it's kind of transitory and it'll be gone after people eat it?
BV: Years ago, I was like, "No, please don't cut my cake up!" These days, I'm just so happy to watch them cut it and eat it and find that it actually tastes good!
EOW: That has to be a good feeling.
BV: Oh, absolutely! I feel like I'm accomplishing a mission. You bake a big cake, you deliver a big cake, everybody is buzzed when they see it, and then when they eat it? It's like fuhgeddaboudit.
EOW: I've seen and eaten fancy cakes that taste awful, so it must be nice to know that people are enjoying your cake for its taste, too.
BV: Oh, absolutely.
EOW: You know, I found a video online recently called "Cake Boss Top 10 Cakes." And it's set to "Who Let the Dogs Out," that old song...
BV: Oh yeah? Cake Boss top 10 cakes? I gotta look that up. [starts typing]
EOW: Yeah, you've gotta see it. Clearly, a guy put this together, and it's awesome. It's a tribute to his favorite cakes that you've done.
BV: Oh yeah?
EOW: Yeah! What do you think his favorite cakes were?
BV: Wait, where is it? On YouTube? [types some more]
EOW: Which cakes do you think he liked the best?
BV: I dunno, but I have it here.
EOW: You already pulled it up?!
BV: [watching the video] Hey, there's the motorcycle cake! For a guy, I'd say the NASCAR cake has to be on there. Transformers, the pool table, probably the firemen.
EOW: I was disappointed my favorite cake didn't make it on the list, which was the bowling alley cake.
BV: Oh, I like the bowling alley cake too! You know, even some of the network executives were like, "Aw, that cake wasn't that crazy." And I was like, "Are you kidding me?! That was a bowling alley!"
EOW: It was beautiful! I loved the woodgrain.
BV: Yeah, I'd been wanting to do a bowling alley cake for a while.
EOW: So were you excited when you were presented with the opportunity, then?
BV: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
EOW: When you're doing more personal cakes, though - like your daughter's first communion cake on that same episode - was that an emotional cake for you to make?
BV: Oh, absolutely. Dancing with my little girl? Was the best.
EOW: You looked so proud in that episode.
BV: Oh, I was. She is a princess and seeing her grow up into what she is now...is like, so amazing to me. I remember holding her when she was crueller-sized. Seeing her grow up has been pretty amazing. That's really who I am, you know. I'm really a family guy. And I love family, I love my wife, I love my kids and I do everything I can to let people know that. And that's why I'm coming to Texas, doing Houston and San Antonio and Dallas. It should be pretty cool.
EOW: I'm really anticipating seeing a whole lot of families in the audience at your shows.
BV: Guaranteed. That's who watches the show.
EOW: Tell me about the interactive portion of your live show on the road.
BV: We invite people up on stage and the show is set to music, so I pull people up on stage and ask them to cake-decorate with me. It's the dads I like to pick up. They like to compete to see who can make, like, the best cupcake. And then the winner gets prizes. And then I tell my story about how I became the Cake Boss, about the American dream. And then I do questions and answers so people can get a behind-the-scenes look at the show. I tell them, like, what was my favorite cake and so on. Then, the finale is pretty funny - but I can't reveal that.
EOW: Oh, no no no. We want it to be a surprise.
BV: It's a show that people come in and say, "What the hell is the Cake Boss going to do on stage for two hours?" But after the show I ask them, "What do you think?" And they say, "Oh, man. It was so much better, so much more than I expected." And it's a show you can bring a four-year-old to, and you can bring your great-grandmother to. And at the end of the show, you really know who I am. You allow me to come into your living room each week and for my show to be there for you and your family, so I really want you to know who I am, who this guy stands for. And I want you to know how much you mean to me, and how hard I work. I see kids looking at me like I'm Superman. And I remember when I was a kid and I met my favorite football player. He was a real jerk. I won't say who it was, but he was a real jerk. And you know, when I see kids look at me, I want to be Superman to them. I want them to say, "Wow, he was the greatest!" Cause it means a lot to me.
EOW: I think that's really admirable, that you want to leave a positive impression on them. Kids don't have enough role models to look up to these days.
BV: Yeah, I agree. And know. And over the years, I've also had a lot of bakeries come to me and say, "Thank you. People really respect us. Thanks for making people understand how hard we work." Kids will look in the windows and ask them, "Do you make cakes like the Cake Boss?" You get a lot of good stuff. I'm also a big advocate of the Make A Wish Foundation. I actually won their Celebrity of the Year award, me and Justin Bieber.
EOW: No way!
BV: Yeah! Because I mean, I grant a lot of wishes. And I do it because it does so much more for me - it really puts life into perspective. It makes you slap yourself and say, "Man. I don't know what problems are." And it makes you appreciate what you have and gives you a better outlook on life.
EOW: I know I've taken up a considerable amount of your time today, and I wanted to say thank you for that.
BV: Absolutely! It was fun shootin' politics with ya!
Tickets to see Buddy Valastro at Jones Hall on November 11 are on sale now.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.