Chef Chat

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...

EOW: Lobbyists.

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.

EOW: Clearly!

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.

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Katharine Shilcutt