'Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro on how an injury won't deter him from his passion
The pastry chef turned reality star says nothing can stop him from doing what he likes the most — whipping up jaw-dropping cakes.
What does a highly-sought after surgeon trained to conducting delicate life-saving surgeries, a globe-trotting professional sportsperson or a member of an elite taskforce have in common with a world-renowned baker whose expertise with icing sugar has fans across the world drooling? What about a working right hand?
In September 2020, when a freak accident at home left Buddy Valastro aka Cake Boss’s right hand impaled while he was trying to rectify a faulty home-bowling alley, it was like the end of the world. The pastry chef turned reality star had to undergo a slew of emergency surgeries, followed by intense physical therapies and more invasive operations, the last one in February. The resultant damage to his hand, which is still in bandage, saw Buddy Valastro take stock of his life. The reality star whose turn in TV series Cake Boss made him a household name across continents owns his own bakery and is the genial face behind the New Jersey supplier of Apple pies and chocolate fudge cakes and cookies and cream infused treats. The pastry chef started working in his family bakery when he was 11 and took over the reigns at 17, when his father passed away.
GIGI HADID'S SPECIAL BAGEL CAKE
A popular figure on social media platforms, Buddy has been constantly updating fans on his long road to recovery. Among celebs who have oohed and awed over his confectionary treats are super model Gigi Hadid who could not stop raving about the everything-bagel-cake he made for her last birthday. Buddy is also the the artistic creator behind Zayn Malik’s custom-baked 28th birthday cake that resembled Bradford City Football Club’s brown and yellow striped jersey on a soccer field with a scorecard that read ‘Happy 28th Birthday Z! Love, G.’
Ahead of the airing of his reality show, Buddy Valastro: Road to Recovery that takes viewers into the home the master baker and cake decorator shares with his wife, Lisa, and their children, the fourth-generation baker shares behind-the-scenes footage as he recovers from his traumatic hand injury. The cake maestro’s humour and positivity shines through in his shows and it is the same here. Despite not being able to create his show stopping masterpieces right now, Buddy and his family welcome the cameras into their home and share their experience of life post-surgery. Excerpts from an interview with the pastry chef:
Hand caught in a pinsetter sounds like a freak accident from hell, especially for a master baker. You’ve already undergone so many surgeries. What is it that kept you going through the hard months of recovery?
It’s been really scary, and even after four months now, I still don’t know a 100% where my hand is going to be. I was probably back to work two weeks after the incident happened. I had to get back to work!
Even though I couldn’t physically do things with my hands, my mind and everything else that I do at the bakery factory was impacted. I think that if I didn’t get back to work, I would’ve drove myself crazy, because the first two to three weeks, all I did was beat myself up. And then once I got back to work, it really gave me the motivation to say, “Okay, I’m going to get through this.” And started to train with my left hand and do more physical therapy for my right hand. So, I’m determined to get back to doing what I used to be able to do. And I believe it in my heart, and I believe it in my mind. It’s just going to take some time to do it, so the mindset is to be at the level that I was.
How have your children coped with it all? How did you guys as a family cope with the aftermath of the accident?
People who know me, especially my family, know that I will work tirelessly to recover, and I will not give up until I figure something out. Sometimes I say to my wife, I’m like “Lisa, it seems like you’re not worried” and she then says “Yeah because I know you, and I know that no matter what you’re going to figure a way to make it happen.”
Does it now feel like starting from scratch all over again?
It was hard. My right hand is my dominant hand and I used it in everything! Anything from eating, using a fork and knife, washing myself, doing my hair, etc. everything was a lot harder to learn with my left hand. But I got to say, my left hand has really picked up and I’m doing a lot of stuff that I normally would have with my right hand, so that’s a positive.
How do you see your career evolving in the aftermath of the accident?
Well, at this point I’m determined to get back to being a cake boss. And whether I get to do it with my left hand, whether I get to keep training my right hand, I want to get back to the level that I was. Is it 80%? Is it 70%? Is it 100%? I don’t know. But you have my commitment.
We don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but in retrospect do you ever feel things happen for a certain reason? And if so what has your accident taught you?
There’s definitely nothing else other than being Cake Boss that can fulfill me because it’s part of everything that I am. I have a lot of other hobbies, I have my wife, I have my children, but I still need this. This is a part of me that I cannot go without; it’s part of my DNA.
This pandemic seems to have made bakers out of a lot of people. Did it ever worry you during 2020 that you could be out of a job seeing as many people now feel they can bake better than the neighbourhood chef!
I consider myself a professional in my field. But I never say that I’m the best. I never really feel that I’m the best. I always feel like I can learn, I can learn from anyone or anything and I can always grow.
As far as what I do to be a leader, is I try to see what the trends are going to be. What are people going to want? How can this become more efficient? What’s the missing link in the market? And fill in those gaps. Because, again, it’s not like you want to become Oreo and try to take out Oreo, right?
Buddy Valastro: Road to Recovery is currently airing in the UAE on TLC (OSN channel 212)