Buddy Valastro has been lording it over TLC for nine years now with his show, Cake Boss, screened in 200 countries and dubbed in 45 languages. One would expect him to have the air of man who has nothing else to prove. Yet he remains passionate about his job, and always curious to try something new.
“What’s a good Philippine tea?” he asked during an intimate interview with select journalists ahead of The Lifestyle Channel’s TLC Festival 2017 at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig early this month.
And, in between sips of warm salabat (ginger tea), he recalled enjoying pan de sal and ensaymada during his last visit to the Philippines, but lamented he could not get the same in New Jersey.
A defining moment for this celebrity baker, who regaled us with his soft hands—from working on butter almost every day, he said—happened when he was 11 years old when his father taught him there is dignity in labor.
“I got caught playing matches and as punishment, I was made to work in our bakery. To be more specific, he made me clean the toilet bowl. And then he asked me—‘Are you too good to clean this?’ He taught me to take pride in whatever I do, whether in baking cake or cleaning the toilet bowl,” Valastro said.
He would take to heart that life lesson, from the time he began baking away from the public eye up to now when Cake Boss has become a household name, thanks to his smash hit of a television show.
Valastro fell in love with cake decorating—a creative process that requires much discipline despite the fun-looking output.
“When I bake cake, I go into what I call the zone, and all of a sudden, it’s just me and the cake. The room goes quiet, and I am laser-focused on it. My problems go away, I am calm and I put my heart and soul in my creation,” he said.
“And then I step back, and look at what I’ve created, and get that feeling of wow. I knew from an early age that I want this feeling for the rest of my life. It’s my art and my passion,” Valastro added.
For the Cake Boss, he is never not “in the zone.”
“That never happens come hell or high water. There are times that you feel less enthused or you need someone else to take the lead but thank God that I have a great team around me. It is such a rarity that I’m not in the mood for it.”
But more than a renewable stream of creative juices, Valastro said it is important to be humble enough to continuously learn from others and disciplined enough to do one’s work every day.
“I humbled myself to people who know more than me and learn from them. To this day, I still have a learning desire. I never think that I’m a know-it-all and that I can’t learn more. Have an open mind and be smart enough to know that you can always learn new tricks,” he said.
He has, however, yet to bake his dream cake.
“I want to make a cake for the Pope. That would be my dream cake. The Pope is trying to do is to preach about the poor, the hungry, the underprivileged, and making the world not forget about them, which is something dear to my heart. Every night in the bakery, whatever is left over, we give it to the homeless. My dad started that tradition, and that’s something we’ve kept up and we continue to do so.”
“I want to make him a cake because I think he’s doing a great job, but the problem is what the hell do you make the Pope?” Valastro added.
Valastro, who headlined the TLC Festival 2017 that was attended by whopping 130,000 participants, said bakers like him should not be afraid to dream big while remaining authentic.
“Never forget who you are, where you came from, your roots and values. And if you find that thing that makes you tick the way that cake decorating made me tick, I think you’ll be successful.”
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