Carlo’s Bakery, featured on the TLC hit show Cake Boss, is known for its delicious pastries, desserts and cakes. Carlo Guastaffero originally opened the family bakery in 1910, and Bartolo Valastro Sr. acquired it in 1964. Since the untimely passing of Bartolo Sr. in 1994, matriarch Mary Valastro and her children Grace, Maddalena, Mary, Lisa, and master baker Bartolo Jr. “Buddy” Valastro have expanded the business with the help of their spouses.
Buddy is a fourth-generation baker, whose father taught him everything about baking and running a business. Today, Carlo’s Bakery has 13 locations throughout the U.S., in addition to a 55,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art facility in New Jersey, where Valastro and his team create thousands of wedding cakes, specialty cakes and delicious Italian pastries. NBC’s Today Show viewers voted his design as the best cake in America, and his award-winning cakes have been featured in countless bridal and baking magazines, such as Modern Bride and The Knot.
Whole Earth Sweetener Co. recently announced a new partnership with celebrity chef, entrepreneur and television personality Buddy Valastro on a campaign to “Rethink Sweet.” Buddy will serve as the official brand ambassador for the new line of zero- and lower-calorie sweeteners, and will work to help his fans make healthy lifestyle choices, without compromising on taste. Buddy will share his culinary expertise this fall and into the holiday season, along with all-new, original and seasonally festive recipes for mouthwatering treats using Whole Earth Sweetener Co. products. Even the average baker will delight in Buddy’s easy-to-bake treats, which taste great but have lower calories than their traditional versions.
I was able to chat with Buddy about his new venture with Whole Earth Sweetener Company, fatherhood, cooking and baking.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your newest endeavor for a healthy lifestyle called Rethink Sweet. Tell me a little about your new project?
Buddy Valestro: I partnered with the Whole Earth Sweetener Company. I am their brand ambassador. They have a line of products that range from a baking blend to a honey blend to a nature sweet. Different products to help make healthier choices with sugar. My favorite one is the baking blend. The baking blend is actually half the calories than sugar. So it is half real sugar and half stevia. You still get the flavor of sugar, but you are getting away with half the calories and not sacrificing the quality.
AE: I think we are all trying to eat better and cut down on our sweets. So this Rethink Sweet project will help that. As we approach the fall and winter months that have a lot of holidays that includes treats, candy, and desserts what are some ways people can make sure that they are not over indulging?
BV: I believe in moderation. I definitely not a fan of cutting sweets out totally. With products like the baking blend or the honey blend, it is half the calories that are used in regular sugar. It is a great way to still enjoy the sweets, but not enjoy the calories. It is very comparable to using sugar. Every recipe is a little different. Some recipes are a cup to a cup. Others are a half cup to a cup. It is actually pretty fun. That was my probably my favorite part of the endeavor. It was trying to figure out the exact balance of if you are taking sugar out of this recipe and putting in baking blend; how much do you actually put in?
I love to challenge myself to those type of things. It was a lot of fun. We did some taste tests especially with my kids. My kids couldn’t pick which ones had all the calories or the ones that didn’t. So if it was good enough for them then it was good enough for me.
AE: Out of the new recipes that you have come up with do you have a favorite?
BV: It is going to sound weird, but the Italian Cheesecake. We did an Italian Cheesecake. It is very hard to tell that we substituted the sugar. Some of them are more predominant than others. My palate is a hard palate to fool, but that one was the one that I was most shocked with. It stumped me.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what were some of the first few thoughts that popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
BV: I was really excited. My dad was everything to me. I wanted to be that for my kids. The best moment was when my daughter was born. I remember her being born and I just cried like a baby. I thought of her whole life and what I wanted for her. I wanted to just be there for her. It is scary. Now she is thirteen. She is sharing clothes with my wife. I think I need to get a gun or a bat. Honestly there is not a better feeling. Then you see little bits of you or your wife or your dad in your kids. The expressions that they make or their attitudes or the way they look or the way they think. It is so amazing to me to be able to have it. At the end of the day I love it. My kids are my best friends. I have a special relationship with all of them.
I am a busy guy. As busy as I am I still have a strong bond and relationship with my kids. I will take them when I travel. Sometimes it is too crazy places like South Africa, Asia, or Australia and enjoy that time with them. I was fishing with my son yesterday. It is why we do what we do. It is funny. I have a lot of accomplishments. I am not bragging, but I have done a lot of good stuff, but my biggest accomplishment is my kids and my family.
AE: You and your family have a show called Buddy’s Family Vacation. How much fun did you guys have filming that series?
BV: We had a lot of fun doing it. It was actually really fun to do that show. We lived in an RV for three weeks. So you put four kids and my wife in an RV and it is just TV magic. (Both laugh.) There is fighting and screaming and some craziness, but I would have it no other way. We are getting to see America. Being able to get out of the New York area and just travel and see great places in America.
AE: What is your favorite thing that your kids like to bake or cook with you?
BV: Chocolate chip cookies. They started with cake decorating when they were younger and a little bit of baking. Now they are on to cooking. I taught my son the other day. He wanted to learn how to make pasta. I taught him how to make pasta with broccoli. My dad used to make it by putting anchovies in it. Now with kids you might think that they wouldn’t eat anchovies. He cooked with it. He tasted it. He was like, ‘Oh man this is really good.’ It is always really hard to get kids to eat, but if they cook it they almost feel like they have to eat it. He is going to be twelve. We are getting him into cooking. My daughter bakes on her own. She is really good too. Carlos is only five. My nine year old is more into sports, but he loves to eat.
AE: What are some of the core values you look to instill in your kids as they grow up?
BV: Family is the main value. Family is family no matter what. Thick or thin or indifferent this is how we do. The fact that I am still close with my family, my four sisters, my mom, my in-laws; we are always together. That is what is being instilled. The other thing is work ethic. They have to know that you can have nice things in life, but you have to work hard for it, believe in yourself, and not give up. I am not going to sit here and lie to you. I do well. I get scared that my kids are going to be spoiled and are not humble. We still make them do chores around the house. Even though we have help, they still have to do chores around the house. I take them to work with me. I make them earn a dollar. When they earn that dollar they can spend that money just to understand about life. It is important in real life.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads?
BV: When you are going to be a dad you are always going to be protective. That is the first instinct. It is protecting. You want to have a relationship where they can trust you. I tell my kids all the time no matter what happens or whatever you do you can always tell me. I might freak out, but I am always going to be there for you no matter what. For first time dads a lot of guys are very scared to pick up a baby. I will never forget the first time my daughter was born. We are in the hospital. Baby comes out. The nurses are cleaning her up. I thought that they were going to break her. I was like oh my God. The way they handled that baby I couldn’t even imagine. They are not as fragile as you think. You can’t get rough with them, but you know what I am saying.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie you guys like to watch together?
BV: My five year old rules the TV. So right now it is Minions all the time right now.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing and dance to as a family?
BV: That is funny because we were doing karaoke last night. We were singing Don’t Stop Believing.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
BV: A perfect family vacation for me is on an island, a beach, or a resort. It is where everyone is contained and they can’t go anywhere. We are just hanging out by the pool or the beach all day. Having a good time and spending quality family time.
AE: What was the first recipe that you mastered?
BV: Penne alla vodka.
AE: Favorite dish of all time is…
BV: Lobster tail.