“And all of a sudden, it’s just me and the cake and then the room goes quiet and I’m laser-focused on it. My problems go away,” says Buddy Valastro, describing his process. “It’s my heart, my passion. I knew from a young age that I wanted this feeling for the rest of my life.”
Aired in 220 countries and dubbed in 45 languages, TLC’s popular reality show Cake Boss featured Valastro and his family of bakers through nine seasons, 350 episodes and counting. But even before then, the boss himself has always been, first and foremost, a businessman. After dropping out of high school, Valastro took over his late father’s business, Carlo’s Bakery, and turned it into an empire, opening 22 branches and with two restaurants in the pipeline. Down the road, he aims to open Carlo’s Bakery in every continent in the world. “A true entrepreneur is born with certain senses, like a shark who smells blood in the water. he isn’t afraid to take risks,” he shares. “To this day, I still have the yearning desire to learn new tricks. You got to have that drive, that vision, and that focus. That is the fuel that drives the engine.” Today, he also owns television production company Cakehouse Media and has ventured into real estate.
As ceaseless traveler flying 350,000 miles across the globe each year, Valastro’s feet has brought him to different places to enjoy different flavors. “I always love to try new things, and see every kind of bakery,” he says. “I have an appreciation for different flavors, tastes, and creations from all over the world.” And one thing he loves? Tropical fruits such as coconut, which the Philippines is known for. “Until you go somewhere, you never know what it’s like. I get pleasantly surprised everywhere I’ve been. And when I go to these places, I try to eat the local flavors and food and talk to the people and get to know what their life’s like.”
Valastro was in town recently for the TLC Festival, which drew thousands of people to Bonifacio High Street. Cake Boss’ Filipino viewers have resonated greatly with Valastro because it reminded him of his own family’s close ties. Although he admits that running a business with family is a continuous challenge, it’s a reality he has accepted because “nobody’s going to work harder than your family. Nobody’s going to be there more.”
While we chatted with him, we asked how he would articulate the city of Manila, Cake Boss-style. “I would definitely do a beautiful city because I think that’s what it is. We will definitely have the skyscrapers, the skyline, but I would have cars and people in the streets. I would have lots of little tricycles and jeepneys because I think that they’re a fun and cool cultural thing. As far as the flavor, maybe something tropical like coconut passion fruit. Probably with mangoes, too. So maybe a Manila cake with French cream and fresh mangoes chopped up. I’d also add your local chocolate, the tablea. That would be more or less my vision of the cake.” Yum.
Art by Mags Ocampo
Photography by Renzo Navarro
Illustration by Andrew Panopio