Food, family, and funfetti: Channel24's in-house baker bonds with the Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro

2020-04-01 14:30
Buddy Valastro

Bashiera Parker is Channel24's International and Royal News Editor, but she dabbles in a little baking here and there. She recently spoke to Buddy Valastro, aka, the Cake Boss, to talk Buddy vs. Duff season two, and food, family and funfetti. Check out the interview here.

When I'm in the kitchen, I only ever hear my mom's voice in my head. After years, "Sift the flour!" is as jarring to me as dropping an oven tray on the tiles. My mom taught me how to bake and cook, and like many parents out there, she did it without recipes and measurements – you just had to feel your way through the exact spices and how many teaspoons of each go into the biryani – but she did have a few key instructions I'll never forget.

"Always sift your flour for your cakes!"

For Buddy Valastro, it's much of the same. Despite being the owner of the world-famous Carlo's Bakery, and having been deemed the "Cake Boss", he told me all about the humble connection he's made between family and food when I interviewed him before the coronavirus pandemic, and just two days after his birthday.

I had a list of questions before me, but I wondered, what does the Cake Boss eat on his birthday?

"You're gonna laugh," he says, "but every year my wife and kids make me a box-mix cake on my birthday, and I wouldn't want any other cake.

"The top tier was almost falling over but, it was the most special cake," he adds.

This year it was vanilla cake with icing – and fruit loops.

Cake Boss was Buddy's first show and from it came several others – Next Great Baker, Kitchen Boss, Bake You Rich, and Bakery Boss – but his latest show and possibly his biggest hit is Buddy vs. Duff with Duff Goldman. The series, which sees the two celebrity bakers go head-to-head against each other in an attempt to prove their culinary skills, was the Food Network's top-rated show in 2019. Season 2 will be different to season one though, Buddy says.

"Season one was a cake competition and a baking competition. Season two is strictly cakes. And its who can make the biggest and baddest cakes. Is it Buddy, or is it Duff? We just go head-to-head. And I can tell you that Duff pushed me to the brink of insanity, and I'm sure that I pushed him. But in a good way.

"We brought out the best in each other. And we strived for more."

I asked the question on everybody's lips: We love the competitive spirit and witty banter, but the internet wants to know, did you become friends with Duff while filming the show?

He laughed: "Well it's funny you ask that because during season one we really became friends. We really, believe it or not, didn't know each other personally before season one. Of course, we knew of each other, but we never really hung out. And season one was a way for us to get to know who we were. We became really good friends in season one, but I do think in season two in became amplified. The amount of respect we have for one another.

"This season for me was less about winning or losing. It was more about two amazing bakers making the best cakes that anybody ever saw.

"I think my relationship with Duff and what we accomplished this year, means more to me than winning."

"How's everything in South Africa?" Buddy asks during our conversation before telling me about how much he loves our country.

"It's one of my favourite places I ever visited," he says. "Not only did I find it beautiful, but the people were so warm, and embracing and inviting, I really felt at home. I tell people sometimes, you know, one of my favourite places was Table Mountain in Cape Town. You can't explain the beauty – there's no place like it on the planet."

Buddy says he'll be back soon – he was just waiting for his youngest to be old enough to appreciate the beauty – before commenting: "One thing for sure is, when the Cake Boss travels internationally, they feed him sweets.

"And I had a tremendous amount of sweets in South Africa. I don't exactly remember the names, but I remember everything being delicious. It was such an awesome experience for me."

South Africa is culturally diverse with desserts ranging from koesisters to hertzoggies, so I can only imagine everything Buddy had when he visited South Africa in 2015.

But before he has to go, we get to talking about my upbringing and heritage – and the Bollywood cake he made in season one.

"I gotta tell you, that was my favourite theme. When they said to me Bollywood, we have a huge Indian community here in Jersey City, and I have a lot of Indian friends and we have a lot of Indian weddings. So I know what it's like. When they said Bollywood, I was so inspired to have fun and go over the top with it. We killed that cake, that cake was amazing."

Speaking about my community, I tell him: "I learned how to cook from my grandmother and mom," and for him, it was the same.

"Family is everything," he says, connecting us on a whole new level.

"I think there are personality traits that you'll see of me in Cake Boss, that are me. Like never giving up, always dreaming big, always believing in yourself and being confident, is something that I was born with. This is the way I live my life," he says, before explaining that he wants to pass that on to his kids.

"I try to set that example with my children. I want my children to dream big, I want them to know that they can do anything.

"My father was my biggest influence in my life," he says, and my mind wonders to my mom for a second, "and I want to be the biggest influence in my children's lives."

"The Indian culture and the Italian culture are very similar," he adds. "Very family-centric, food, big parties, guilt – a lot of guilt," he laughed. And whether he meant the guilt about the lekker food filled with butter and ghee or the guilt from family feuds spanning generations over a supposed stolen biryani recipe, didn't matter. It both made sense – and we were both in hysterics.

Buddy vs. Duff Season 2 starts Thursday 2 April on TLC (135) at 19:00.

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