Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘buddy valastro’

From the time I moved to the post-college paradise that is Hoboken, New Jersey, in 2006, until the day I moved out of the oft-flooded mile-square city in 2008, I’d never heard of Buddy Valastro.

I also didn’t know much about his bakery, Carlo’s Bake Shop, though I’d walked past it hundreds of times on Hoboken’s main drag, Washington Street. With its picturesque storefront window and classic gold on maroon signage, Carlo’s always felt very upscale from the outside; it was the kind of place that someone like me, who routinely ate mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs for dinner, should walk right past without a second glance.

But what I also didn’t know was this: that behind that fancy storefront window I’d been so intimated by, Buddy Valastro was busy building an empire.

Having his cake…
It was my fiancée who introduced me to Valastro’s cable reality show, Cake Boss, in 2009. The show is about a family-owned bakery in Hoboken starring the son of the bakery’s late owner, Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Sr.

Buddy Jr.’s supporting cast is made up of the other people who work in the bakery, many of them related to him by blood or marriage. They play innocuous pranks on each other, bicker like family often does, and produce elaborate works of edible art in each episode.

Even since the TLC show debuted, I would guess the bakery still sells more pastries like cannoli, cupcakes, and lobster tails than it does its $25,000 masterpieces. Yet it’s the higher profile clients and cakes that the show centers around; they represent a new challenge to Buddy and his bakers in each episode.

CB_roulette

Always bet on red…velvet! Am I right??? (Photo credit: http://www.mediaglare.wordpress.com)

Cake Boss, which begun its sixth season this past Memorial Day, is a lot like the storefront window at Carlo’s in that it’s been a showcase for the talents of Buddy and his staff. They’ve made everything from a wedding cake that was fitted to house two live doves, to a roulette table and wheel cake for a local men’s social club. (For Cake Boss‘s “Top 5 Most Impressive Cakes,” click here.)

Upon each cake’s delivery on the show, often by Buddy himself, the client thanks the Cake Boss effusively for using his artistic medium, cake, to transform their vision into a gorgeous and delicious homage to the person, place or thing they’re celebrating. And Buddy, always modest and deferential, seems to understand that the client isn’t really a customer, but a patron of the arts who allows him to make a lucrative living doing what he loves to do.

…and Eating It, Too
For many of us, it would have been enough to propel our family’s mom-and-pop bake shop into a multi-million dollar business with its own accompanying reality show. But Buddy, so it appears, is far more ambitious than his goofy, avuncular, PG-rated disposition might suggest.

The Next Great Baker, his competition reality show, just wrapped up its third season in February 2013. From 2011 to 2012 he hosted two seasons of yet another TLC show called Kitchen Boss, a cooking show where Buddy traded in eggs, sugar and flower for tomato sauce, pasta and meatballs, and shared his family’s Italian food recipes.

Meanwhile, after opening up another facility at the Lackawanna Center in Jersey City to keep up with the high volume of national orders–more voluminous thanks to Cake Boss‘s popularity–he has since expanded, opening a second Carlo’s Bake Shop in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He’s also got a small shop in Times Square. I get the sense he won’t stop there.

Sure, A&E’s Duck Dynasty may have stolen some of the cable reality headlines recently. The hit show has emerged as a ratings machine, beating everything in the Wednesday 10 pm time slot including broadcast network programming.

Like Willie Robertson, the CEO of Duck Commander born into a family whose patriarch started a modest duck call business, Valastro has benefited by being at the right place–and in the right family–at the right time, as the oldest son of a baker with his own bake shop. And yes, if you asked Valastro he might tell you how blessed he feels to be where he is today. But it hasn’t been all roses for Valastro, who lost his father in 1994 and whose mother, as documented on Cake Boss, was recently diagnosed with ALS.

Yet the Cake Boss machine rolls on, all Buddy’s hard work seemingly less about avarice than about honoring the family tradition he was destined to carry on.

Taking His Talents to Upstate New York
Despite everything on his cake plate, Buddy is apparently still up for a new challenge.

Joining Restaurant Impossible‘s Robert Irvine and Hotel Impossibles Anthony Melchiorri, Buddy Valastro is looking to become the next star in reality TV’s small business renovation sub-genre. After all, if you needed advice on running your family-owned bakery, wouldn’t Valastro be the first guy you’d want to talk to?

In the premiere episode of his latest TLC show, Bakery Boss, last Monday night, Valastro visited Friendly Bake Shop upstate in Frankfort, New York. (About 200 miles away from Carlo’s, Friendly is safely outside Valastro’s customer base. For now.)

Friendly Bake Shop after the Buddy treatment.

Friendly Bake Shop after the Buddy treatment. (Photo credit: herkimertelegram.com)

With three old, tired men at the helm of Friendly and their three grown children working devotedly (but fecklessly) for them, it seemed that the former were lacking energy to keep the bakery going, while the latter were lacking the know-how. Buddy’s visit was their last chance to turn things around.

As you might expect with any episode in this genre–as we’ve seen so many made-for-reality-TV miracles performed by Irvine and Melchiorri before–Buddy shapes up Friendly Bake Shop in just a few days. He demands a full cleaning of the shop and its equipment, revises the menu with some of his own best-sellers and shows the staff how to make them, and renovates the storefront to look more like Carlo’s than a crappy dive bar in the middle of nowhere.

Early reports say the shop is now flourishing since the episode aired, though Yelp has just one review from someone in California.

Success Story or Sell-Out?
Former New York Yankee great Yogi Berra once reportedly said about a popular restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Many of us can relate to the idea of liking things before it was cool. Our favorite indie band gets mainstream radio airplay, and suddenly we can’t get tickets to their concerts. Our favorite TV show, which so aptly captured the zeitgeist of people our age, suddenly got popular among the masses and became prosaic beyond recognition.

So should we stop rooting for guys like Buddy, who was once a great upstart story but has since saturated the market with pre-made cakes sold in grocery stores, a line of baking equipment, and enough TV shows to start his own cable network? There’s no right answer to that, of course, but for me it’s always felt strange rooting for the underdog only until they’re not the underdog anymore.

En route to our Memorial Day weekend away at the beach, my fiancée and I stopped off at Carlo’s to get some treats before getting onto the New Jersey Turnpike.

Arriving on Friday morning, we hoped they would still have plenty of their signature coffee cake–my fiancee’s mom’s favorite–with the crumbs the size of small boulders. Our only concern, with a tight schedule and a long drive ahead, was the length of the line.

As it turns out we were right to be concerned. We had apparently showed up just a few minutes behind a bus full of tourists who had made a special trip to wait on line at the famous bakery from TV. They were queued up along the sidewalk, blocking the path of Hoboken residents whose formerly cute little local Italian bakery was now a nuisance to walk past.

We chose not to wait. In that moment we would have loved to have pulled up and seen no line so we could get in and out. I’m sure Buddy would disagree.

I’ll still be rooting from Buddy from afar, like a high school friend I don’t speak to but keep up with all the goings on in their life via Facebook. In the meantime there’s no shortage of up-and-coming reality stars to latch onto, perhaps even the next Buddy Valastro.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: