Food & Drink

Cake Boss Buddy Valastro Tells the Story of His First Kitchen Job

Published On 03/13/2015 Published On 03/13/2015
Buddy Valastro in front of Carlo's Bakery
Courtesy of Carlo's Bakery

In this series, we're asking celebrity chefs to tell us about their first kitchen jobs. Our latest subject is Buddy Valastro, the man behind Carlo's Bakery. Even if you've never been to one of the shop's eight locations, you might've seen Buddy and his family at work on TLC's Cake Boss. But we're going back to the early days of Buddy's career, when he was just a kid learning the ropes from his Dad. We'll be publishing more first-job installments in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for interviews with your favorite TV chefs about their humble beginnings. And check out the first edition here.

It was kind of awesome. It was a lot of work and a lot of hours, but it was our family, our norm. You know, even on Christmas growing up, we’d be working. But it felt normal.

It was funny, my first day of work, my Dad brought me in and he made me clean the toilet bowl. Because he wanted to show that just because I was his son, I didn’t get special treatment. And he wanted me to know what it was like to be the guy who had to clean the bathroom. But after that, it was little things like cracking the eggs for the mix or scooping out the flour and sugar. Filling up cannolis for Grandma.

I actually remember the first time I filled a tray of cannolis by myself. I was young, I had to be 11 or 12, and I didn’t fill them up all the way. Nobody checked, because no one was watching me I guess. I did a whole pan and my Dad had to go back with a spoon and refill all of them.

Although I don’t recommend this today -- today we use all the safety precautions -- we had less regulations back then, so you could stick your arm in the mixing bowl while it was mixing. It was dangerous code, but you knew the rhythm of the way that machine worked. It’s like a musician knowing how to play an instrument.

When we were kids, my Dad was in charge and it was just whatever. But when my Dad died, I stepped up and took over as the boss and it was hard for my older sisters to want to listen to me. There were definitely fights. I had to prove myself not only to my sisters but to all my bakers, that I was worthy of being their boss. That it wasn’t because I was my Father’s son, but because I was good at what I did. That I gave a s*** and worked hard. Respect is something you can’t buy, you have to earn it. That's a very important, valuable lesson I’ve learned in life.

Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist. Her childhood baking efforts were pretty abysmal across the board, but nothing beat the goopy yellow cake she "made" with zero adult supervision. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.

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