Later this month, Hoboken's own Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro returns to the scene of his first ever live performance, the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, for a leg of his Homemade for the Holidays Tour.
The show is one of 21 in just 22 days, and the only one scheduled in New Jersey, which is still recovering from the destruction unleashed by Hurricane Sandy two weeks ago. Valastro, whose bakery Carlo's City Hall Bake Shop was closed but unharmed during Sandy, said he considers himself one of the lucky ones.
Carlo’s lost power and was closed for a week but avoided any property damage due to the storm.
"Thank God we didn’t get hit too bad,” he said. “Compared to people all over the state, we were damn lucky.”
Valastro, a Little Ferry native, said a condo he owns in Long Branch did get some water damage, though it wasn’t the worst. When it comes to his boat, however, Valastro said he’d have to wait to find out what kind of damage it’s sustained.
“I don’t know where my boat is,” he said, taking the entire thing in stride. “It’s missing.”
The Nov. 26 show is an interactive holiday performance set to music. Valastro said he’ll be decorating cakes, telling his best stories, giving the audience baking tips and tricks, doing a question and answer segment, and calling people to stage to compete to win the cakes decorated on stage.
The first time he stepped on the Basie stage for a live performance he said it came with some pre-show jitters. Being filmed in the bakeshop was one thing, but appearing before a live audience evokes a feeling, still, that can’t compare. That first time, however, Valastro said the Basie crowd made him feel like a rock star.
“I’m so used to it now that I’m OK,” he said about live show nerves. “The roaring of the crowd, it actually settles me.”
And in Red Bank, Valastro said he always finds a welcoming crowd, on, and off, the stage. When it comes to dining, Valastro said he and his family routinely come down to Red Bank to enjoy one of the town’s numerous restaurants. And though he’s recognized in person when he’s out, Valastro sees that it’s just part of the territory.
“I’m so used to it now that it doesn’t even phase me,” Valastro said of the recognition. “People treat me like a celebrity, but I don’t act like one. I’m just a baker from New Jersey.”
He’s also the star of a show set in New Jersey, which, as far as reality television goes, is often lampooned, intentionally or otherwise. And the star, the most familiar with molds, is proud to break at least one.
“Out of all the Jersey reality shows, I’m proud to be the most positive,” he said. “I think people give (New Jersey) a bad rap. To be a part of showing Jersey in a great light and showing what treasures we have here is really a pleasure.”
In his celebrity and the overwhelming success of his TLC show, which debuted in 2009 and now airs in 180 countries, Valastro said he’s proud to play a new role in addition to the one of Cake Boss. As he’s traveled throughout the country on book tours and live shows, Valastro said he’s regularly approached by people who claim him as an inspiration in their lives. From novice bakers to culinary students, entrepreneurs to Cake Boss enthusiasts, Valastro said he’s overwhelmed by the number of people who point to him as a role model.
“I didn’t know that what I was going to be doing when I set out to do the show,” he said. “People ask me what they need (to be successful), I tell them it’s going to take a lot of work, but at the end of the day you can be anything you want to be.
“I’ve been working hard my whole life. It was a long road and it was a tough fight, but here I am, I’m the Cake Boss.”
To purchase tickets to Buddy Valastro's Homemade for the Holidays tour show at the Count Basie Theatre, visit the theatre's website here.