What You Never Knew About Buddy Valastro

There was a time when Buddy Valastro's fame was more or less confined to his hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, where he was known by locals for the spectacular cakes he created at his family-owned establishment, Carlo's Bakery. Valastro's world changed forever in 2009 with the premiere of "Cake Boss," the TLC reality show that followed Valastro as he and his team created those eye-popping cake extravaganzas. As the New York Times pointed out, the show became a massive success, airing in 160 countries and making its star a household name. "I'm doing cakes I should think are crazy, but fans want to see me pushed to brink of insanity," Valastro said of the show's popularity. 


While "Cake Boss" ended its run in 2017, Valastro remained a fixture on television; among the other shows he appeared in were "Buddy vs. Duff," "Cake Boss: Next Great Baker," and "Bake It Like Buddy." Meanwhile, in 2019 Discovery announced the original "Cake Boss" would be returning (not on TLC, but on Discovery) for a ninth season.

There's a lot more to this multitalented baker, entrepreneur and television personality than fans may realize. Read on to find out what you don't know about Buddy Valastro.

Buddy Valastro began working at the family bakery when he was just 6

Buddy Valastro brings a lot of baking experience to his various television roles, knowledge accumulated over the course of a life spent working in his family-run bakery. In fact, Valastro was a youngster when he first began learning the ropes from his father, working alongside him in Carlo's Bakery. As Valastro detailed in an essay he wrote for Guideposts, he was all of six years old when he told his dad he wanted to come work with him. "That day he brought me to Carlo's," Valastro explained, admitting he "was in awe" watching how "pastry dough came alive" in his father's hands. "It hopped up on the rolling pin, unspooled, then lay flat like it was sleeping," Valastro recalled. "It was like magic."


As Valastro grew older, he was expected to work in the bakery in order to "learn responsibility." Yet Valastro's father had larger ambitions for his son than following in his footsteps, insisting he would go to college and get an education. "My dad never told me that I had to be a baker," Valastro told Parade. "But he said, 'I want you to come to the bakery to learn a work ethic.'"

The first cake he ever baked was a labor of love

For Buddy Valastro, working at his family's bakery as a child not only achieved his father's goal of imbuing him with a solid work ethic; the experience also provided the future TLC star with a culinary education like no other. Every task his father assigned him, Valastro wrote in Guideposts, "was a chance to teach me how to do things right and then do them better."


By the time he was 12, Valastro decided it was time to put what he'd been learning into practice. "The first cake that I ever made was my mom's birthday cake," he told Parade. "My dad wouldn't let me practice on a customer cake, so I had to make something for my mom, which was pretty fun." Valastro wound up baking his mother an "Italian rum cake," admitting his effort "was a little crooked but she loved it."

Not only was that modest, off-kilter cake the first step on Valastro's journey, it also left him with a "feeling of self-worth, and satisfaction" over what he'd created. "I wanted that feeling for the rest of my life," he told Parade.

Everything he knows about baking, he learned from his dad

Working at his family's bakery set a young Buddy Valastro on the path that would lead him to TLC's "Cake Boss." It was his father, he revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair, who "taught me everything I know" about baking. "I idolized my dad," Valastro told Parade. "In my heart I probably always wanted to be a baker like him, but it was the cake decorating that got me."


However, there was much to learn along the way. "The first day, I cleaned bowls. Dad wanted me to start at the bottom," Valastro told the Seattle Times, revealing he did "every job in the bakery" in order to learn all aspects of the business. "If I didn't do it that way, I wouldn't be who I am today," he said, crediting the "lessons my dad showed me" for the skill he would eventually demonstrate at creating customized cakes.

Baking and decorating cakes, Valastro added, was something he discovered he could do well. "Instantaneously I knew," said Valastro of realizing that a career in cakes loomed on the horizon as his future beckoned.

The reason he dropped out of high school

Buddy Valastro is a firm believer in the promise of the American Dream. "I believe that if you work hard, and you do what you have to do, you can accomplish anything," he once said in an interview with Vanity Fair, using his own success — despite being "a high-school dropout" — as an example.


Quitting high school before graduation wasn't Valastro's preferred choice, but a necessity brought about by his father's untimely death from cancer when the future "Cake Boss" star was just 17. "I dropped out of school in junior year of high school and went to work full time," Valastro told the Seattle Times of how he was forced to step into leading the family business. 

"I was pretty much in charge," Valastro told Parade. "But I had bakers who worked here for 30 years. They didn't want to listen to a 17-year-old kid." That, he recalled, was when one of his late father's many lessons proved to be important. "I remember my father saying respect is something that you have to earn. It's not something you can get because you're someone's son," Valastro said of being the boss, yet still having to prove himself.


The Cake Boss nickname was invented for television

While Buddy Valastro's name has become synonymous with the title of his TLC series "Cake Boss," that particular nickname wasn't one that had ever been associated with him until he began appearing on television. As Valastro told Bakers Journal, he was initially "skeptical" of being referred to by that regal nickname. "I didn't want to come off like a jerk — like I was better than everyone else — but it shows who I am in a true light," he shared. "Now, I couldn't think of being anything else but that."


As for his television fame, Valastro admitted he thought a show about the day-to-day antics at Carlo's Bakery would probably attract viewers, "but I didn't think it would do as well as it did."

Meanwhile, "Cake Boss" has proven to be instrumental in helping Valastro in achieving his goal of making Carlo's "a household name," he told The Daily Meal. "Now we have a few more people around with cameras, but they're like family to us anyway," he explained, careful to point out that his television success hasn't altered the bakery's core values. As he said, "We're still a neighborhood bakery, we do it Hoboken style!"

Business and family are interwoven for Buddy Valastro

Carlo's Bakery was founded as a family business, and has remained so. For Buddy Valastro, the line between business and family isn't a precisely defined one. On one hand, he told Bakers Journal, "nobody's going to want to work harder or put in more time" than another member of the family, given how "connected" they feel to the place. On the other, he conceded, sometimes his relatives become "almost too connected and they take it too personally." Ultimately, Valastro had come to understand that "business is business and sometimes you need to separate the two."


Among the family members Valastro works with are his brother-in-law Joey Faugno, who told Business News Daily that working alongside family "is unlike anything else. You fight and yell, and then you sit down for a meal." Ultimately, Faugno insisted that he felt "lucky" to be able to work as hard as they do "but still have that family time while we're doing it."

For Valastro, working alongside his family is the way it's always been, and the way he prefers it. "'Family is very important to me," Valastro told Business News Daily, "and the bakery is a big part of who we are."

The death of his beloved mother hit him hard

Not only did viewers of "Cake Boss" get to know Buddy Valastro, they also met his boisterous family. During the show's first few seasons, that included his mother, Mary Valastro, who stepped away from the series after he announced she'd been diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease) in 2012.


In 2017, Valastro issued a statement to reveal that she'd died. "Mary's condition had been steadily worsening these past months, so it was not sudden but still extremely heartbreaking for the family," a spokesperson told People. "After eight years of fighting her battle with ALS, the family is relieved she is no longer suffering. Buddy and his sisters are absolutely crushed right now."

In a subsequent interview with People, Valastro expressed his belief that his mother would have wanted him to forge ahead with both the company business and his television ventures. "She doesn't want me to stop," Valastro declared. "She wants me to be the patriarch of the family and keep doing what I'm doing, 100 percent. There's not even a doubt in my mind." 


Cake Boss has been good for Buddy Valastro's business

Before TLC's debut of "Cake Boss" in 2009, Carlo's Bakery was renowned in Hoboken, New Jersey, but not much beyond that. The success of the TV show, however, not only transformed Buddy Valastro into a television celebrity, but also propelled Carlo's to become a nationally recognized brand. 


According to the Carlo's Bakery website, Valastro's "Cake Boss" fame has led to the opening of several other Carlo's locations, as well as additional business ventures like cookbooks and Valastro's 17-city Bakin' with The Boss Tour in 2010. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Valastro has amassed an impressive fortune estimated at $10 million.

Despite the massive growth the show brought to his business, Valastro maintains a keen connection with his Hoboken roots. "You cannot forget where you come from," he explained in a presentation to students at the University of Delaware, "you don't forget how you got there." It all went back, Valastro told CNBC, to a conscious decision he made way back at age 17, when he first took over running Carlo's Bakery after the death of his father. "No matter what, we are not going to fail," Valastro said, recalling the promise he made to himself.


He's expanded his empire beyond Carlo's Bakery

When "Cake Boss" became a television hit, Valastro was savvy enough to capitalize on his newfound fame by taking the business to even greater heights. As the Jersey Journal reported, in 2019, he expanded beyond the original Carlo's location in Hoboken by opening a 30,000-square-foot facility in Jersey City, described as "a state-of-the-art baking facility and distribution center." It is there, noted Business News Daily, that orders are baked and shipped to customers throughout the U.S. The facility also hosts baking classes. 


Meanwhile, Valastro also threw his hat into the restaurant business. In 2013, Eater reported on Valastro opening his own Italian eatery in Las Vegas, with Buddy V's situated in The Venetian Resort. In 2016, reported The Morning Call, he opened a second Buddy V's location, at what was then known as the Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort (but has been since renamed to Wind Creek Bethlehem). 

Speaking with Eater, Valastro explained how opening an Italian restaurant was both on brand and a subversion of expectations. "Everyone wants a bakery from me," he said. However, he said of his new eatery, "With my vision, my flair, I think it's a recipe for success."

Buddy Valastro has been on the wrong side of the law

Since becoming famous, Buddy Valastro has not been the kind of celebrity known for becoming embroiled in scandal or landing in trouble with the law — although not without exception. That was the case in 2014, when ABC News reported he was pulled over by police on suspicion of driving while under the influence. According to the prosecutor in the case, Valastro told cops, "You can't arrest me! I'm the Cake Boss." The prosecutor also claimed that Valastro asked officers to put him in a cab instead of a police car, insisting, "I don't have to be arrested, I'm not a bad guy."


Valastro ultimately pleaded guilty. He took to Twitter to offer an apology, and in a follow-up tweet explained that he entered a guilty plea "because I wanted to make this right. I learned an important lesson that if you have even one drink you shouldn't drive."

Valastro subsequently spoke about his arrest with "Extra," explaining that he felt he was OK to drive when that clearly was not the case. "Listen, I learned a valuable lesson," he said. "I really thought that I was fine. I wasn't, and it will never happen again."

He once baked a $30 million cake

Not long after he took over Carlo's Bakery, Buddy Valastro could see that supermarkets were cutting into bakeries' birthday cake business. That, he told Vanity Fair, was when he decided "to make cakes they'll never be able to make," spurring him to create "these crazy kind of cakes."


Of all Valastro's spectacular cakes, one holds the record as his most expensive: the cake he baked for New York City socialite Devorah Rose in 2011 for her Devorah's Diamond Gala charity event. According to Market Watch, the cake was valued at a staggering $30 million, due to its use of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, flawless diamonds, and other precious stones. The trick, Valastro admitted, was to ensure that his cake didn't "overpower" those sparkling gems.

Meanwhile, Valastro singled out a different cake as his all-time favorite, proudly describing his "Transformers"-themed cake in an interview with Parade. According to Valastro, the ambitious cake — which stood 12 feet tall and weighed 7,000 pounds — took a team of more than eight people a full three days to make. "I'll never forget when I was done," he said. "I stepped back, I looked at what I made, and cried."


A boating excursion left him lost at sea

While Buddy Valastro has continually demonstrated his talent for crafting spectacular cake creations, his skills as a sailor apparently leave something to be desired. That was the "Cake Boss" star's takeaway when a 2014 boating excursion went awry, leaving Valastro and the passengers — including his wife, another couple and nine children — aboard his 32-foot Boston Whaler, stranded at sea within a dense fog bank in New York Harbor.


"People were scared," Valastro told CNN. "I didn't know which way to look — left, right. I couldn't even see in front of me." What made the experience even more terrifying was that the boat was in an area of the harbor that featured a high level of marine traffic, with Valastro experiencing some close calls with other boats. "We started to get really scared," he admitted.

Finally, a New York Fire Department boat responded to Valastro's distress signal, with a police boat arriving shortly after. "I want to bake them a cake," said Valastro of his rescuers. "I want to do something good for them."

Why a 400-pound cake creation baked by Buddy Valastro wound up in a dumpster

Buddy Valastro's over-the-top cakes aren't often the source of controversy, yet that was the case with 400-pound cake-and-icing replica of Wrigley Field that Valastro created for the Chicago Cubs, in honor of the venue's 100th anniversary. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the cake had been on display throughout the day during a Cubs game, before being moved to Chicago's Field Museum for a Cubs fundraising event that night. Having sat around unrefrigerated for the full day, the cake was deemed to be inedible by museum personnel, and was unceremoniously deposited via forklift into a dumpster. 


Unfortunately, the guy charged with disposing of the cake decided to document the process on Reddit, resulting in a whole lot of ticked-off Cubs fans. In response to the backlash, the Cubs issued a statement declaring that the team was "disappointed" with how the cake was disposed of, while the museum issued its own statement to offer "regret" over what took place. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Valastro was circumspect. "[The Cubs] loved the cake," Valastro said. "They felt bad those pictures of the dumpster came out, but what can you do?"

A bowling accident nearly cost him his hand

One of the many perks of success enjoyed by Buddy Valastro is his own bowling alley situated within his home. However, bowling with his family turned perilous in September 2020; as a rep for Valastro told People reported at the time, a pinsetter malfunctioned and trapped his hand in the mechanism as a metal rod impaled his hand three times. 


Valastro shared the news with his social media followers, posting a photo on Instagram of himself and his injured hand while he lay in a hospital bed, telling fans he'd been involved in "a terrible accident." According to his rep, Valastro underwent two surgeries, and said the "Cake Boss" star faced "an uphill battle" during a process that would require "prolonged recovery and therapy" (per People). 

A year later, the prognosis was good. Appearing on "The Rachael Ray Show," Valastro revealed he had undergone a total of five surgical procedures. "I say we're about 95 per cent [healed], which, if that's as good as it's going to get, Rachael, I'll take it," Valastro declared. "It's definitely been an amazing ride," he added. "The fact that I'm still able to do what I love ... it's amazing."