“Nothing brings family together like food,” says Buddy Valastro, the star of the hit TLC show, Cake Boss. The New Jersey native isn’t just talking out of his chef’s hat: Carlo’s Bake Shop, his family-run bakery and set of the popular reality television show, just celebrated its 100th anniversary and has quickly become a tourist attraction. In Toronto for the release of his new memoir/cookbook, Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia, Valastro discusses the importance of family and holiday traditions.
Q: What’s your secret to creating a delicious and successful holiday meal?
A: Cook with heart and passion. As long as you do it as a family, it’ll be successful. I cook with my kids all the time. I still remember when I was a kid, rolling meatballs with my Nonna. Do it as a family. It isn’t easy—believe me–but always do it as a family.
Q: What’s your current favourite holiday dish?
A: For savory, it’s calzones. Sweets-wise, we always get a smorgasbord of desserts from the bakery: pastries and cakes.
Q: What’s your favourite family recipe for the holidays?
A: Every Christmas when I was a kid we went to my grandmothers for turkey, macaroni and eggplant Parmesan. All of us would be stuffed down in her basement eating. I remember seeing my dad fall asleep on the sofa—he was so tired from work.
Q: What’s a holiday staple that you wish everyone would stop making? Something that you think is horrid…
A: I don’t think there is one. I’m pretty easy that way. As long as you feed me, I’m happy!
Q: We shared our holiday traditions in our current December issue, do you have one?
A: We always have Christmas at my house. My wife cooks and I help her. There are anywhere from 25-45 people there—the whole family. We do baked ziti, calzones, prime rib, ham, turkey, shrimp, lobster, crab legs. It’s a 20-24-course meal! We eat like kings.
Q: Do you have a go-to entertaining tip that guarantees gleeful guests and a successful party?
A: Just enjoy it. Clean up the next day. Enjoy the family time: play Bingo, sing Christmas carols. Do whatever makes your kids remember [the holiday]. Whatever makes them want to do it when they get older, too.
Q: What’s your most spectacular kitchen disaster?
A: The day after we wrapped season two of the show, someone left the refrigerator door open overnight. Five or six of our expensive wedding cakes were ruined. We had to remake them all in five hours. I said, ‘Where are the cameras now!’