Who’s the (cake) boss?

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - Lau­ren Del­gado

Cal­en­dar talks to Buddy Valas­tro, host of TLC’s “Cake Boss,” about the Amer­i­cas Cake Fair, hap­pen­ing this week­end at the Or­ange County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. Also, check out roundups of Hal­loween­themed arts projects and theme-park curses. Plus a com­men­tary on “The Flor­ida Project,” re­views for “Marshall” and more.

Cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful cakes is sec­ond-na­ture to Buddy “Cake Boss” Valas­tro.

As a child he helped out at Carlo’s, his fam­ily’s bakeshop in Hobo­ken, N.J., tak­ing pride in cut­ting out cookie dough and even­tu­ally dec­o­rat­ing cakes. At 14, he knew he wanted to be a baker.

“You make a cake, you put your heart and soul into it,” Valas­tro said in a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

Af­ter all th­ese years, the now 40-year-old baker known for TLC’s “Cake Boss” still gets that feel­ing. Valas­tro, who has opened a Carlo’s Bak­ery in a num­ber of lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing the Flor­ida Mall, is hop­ing to in­spire oth­ers at this week­end’s The Amer­i­cas Cake Fair.

The three-day show will host bak­ing-themed classes, demon­stra­tions, ven­dors and more through Sun­day at the Or­ange County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. Valas­tro will take the main stage at 2 p.m. Satur­day and Sun­day.

“I was one of those peo­ple go­ing to con­ven­tions look­ing for new tools and tech­nol­ogy, look­ing to trade ideas and swap recipes,” he re­called.

His foray into bak­ing con­fer­ences came af­ter Valas­tro took the reins at Carlo’s fol­low­ing his fa­ther’s death from lung cancer. The then 17-year-old lost his best friend and in­spi­ra­tion — and gained 30 em­ploy­ees to man­age.

He worked to en­sure his em­ploy­ees that he de­served the new role.

“My fa­ther used to tell me things like, ‘You don't have to say you’re the boss, they’ll know,’” Valas­tro said.

Still, peo­ple are given cer­tain gifts, Valas­tro said, adding that his was to be the “prob­lem solver.” At the time, the in­dus­try was chang­ing as su­per­mar­kets be­gan com­pet­ing with smaller bak­eries.

Valas­tro knew he had to make cakes that gro­cery stores wouldn’t dare such as a race car, a full-size con­fec­tion mod­eled af­ter his wife, and a rocket cake for NASA.

“I wanted to make a niche mar­ket — get the cakes to taste like [they were from] the old

bak­eries but look like mod­ern cakes.

“It was a recipe for suc­cess.”

De­ter­mined to up his game, Valas­tro brought fon­dant, an ed­i­ble sculpt­able ic­ing, to the bak­ery. He took a class by award­win­ning cake dec­o­ra­tor Betty Van Norstrand on sugar flow­ers.

Carlo’s cre­ations started to ap­pear in mag­a­zines — 200 pub­li­ca­tions dur­ing 10 years. Through that pub­lic­ity, Valas­tro was in­vited onto sev­eral tele­vised cook­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

A cam­era­man, im­pressed with the baker’s per­son­al­ity, put the idea of “Cake Boss” in Valas­tro’s head.

“I started think­ing about it: maybe I do need a TV show,” Valas­tro said. “It’s kind of like a com­edy. Me, my crazy fam­ily, the bak­ery.”

“Cake Boss” pre­miered in 2009. Eight years later, 350 episodes have aired in 220 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries in 45 languages.

Valas­tro never ex­pected the show to gain that much pop­u­lar­ity. Ever the en­tre­pre­neur, he cre­ated his own pro­duc­tion com­pany, Cake­house Me­dia, and pro­duced sev­eral Food Net­work shows in­clud­ing “Cooks vs. Cons.”

“It’s been a whirl­wind of amaz­ing things,” Valas­tro said.

Carlo’s has added more than 20 lo­ca­tions across the east­ern U.S. and an in­ter­na­tional spot in Brazil. Valas­tro hopes to open a bak­ery on ev­ery con­ti­nent in the next 5 years.

“Maybe not Antarc­tica,” he joked.

COURTESY OF HEATHER SWAN­SON/TLC

Buddy Valas­tro, above, has ex­panded the fam­ily’s orig­i­nal Carlo’s in Hobo­ken, N.J., to more than 20 lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Or­lando.

LO­TUS EYES PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

The Amer­i­cas Cake Fair brings celebri­ties, bak­ing classes, demon­stra­tions, com­pe­ti­tions, ven­dors and more to­gether.

PHO­TOS BY LO­TUS EYES PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

You can feast your eyes on a huge va­ri­ety of cake cre­ations at this week­end’s Amer­i­cas Cake Fair.

In its third year, the cake fair in­cludes classes and pre­sen­ta­tions for as­pir­ing cake dec­o­ra­tors.

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