You’ve seen the massive cakes and all of the drama and craziness of the Valastro family as portrayed by TLC on the hit show Cake Boss. But have you ever wondered what the cameras DON’T show you?
Well, lucky for you, I also wondered and I’m here to tell you all about it.
About two years ago, I graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an Associate’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. That landed me an internship at the oh-so famous Carlo’s Bakery, home of The Cake Boss.
Carlo’s Bakery has thirteen locations, mostly in New Jersey. There are others in Nevada, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York. However, the most famous and sought out location is in Hoboken, New Jersey, the original shop first run by Buddy Sr.
At first, I was terrified walking into a bakery where I thought perfection was expected with every move. It was even more terrifying walking into the kitchen and seeing a glass wall in front of me with all those wide-eyed customers waiting to watch culinary magic happen.
I quickly learned that there was room to mess up, and that no one expected you to be perfect. You just had to work hard and learn from your mistakes. Once your name is stitched in pretty red thread onto that crisp white jacket, you’re famiglia and you’re treated like it.
The craziness is real. By 8 am, there’s a line wrapped around the busiest block in Hoboken, NJ. The small store front is jam-packed with as many people that can possibly fit, all calling out orders to be boxed and tied with the famous red and white string.
How do we make enough for all these people? Between 6 am and 7 am the bakers roll in, Starbucks coffee in hand. We start by making at least 100 of our fancier items such as fruit tarts, lobster tails, chocolate truffles and miniature cheesecakes.
By 9 am, we roll out hundreds of cupcakes into the kitchen. 16-inch piping bags are stuffed with dozens of different icings and three bakers get to work decorating. This all happens while two other bakers are decorating cakes and three others are baking a multitude of Italian cookies.
During all of this, workers adjust to the Valastro family style of work, which is rubber snakes in drawers, flour handprints on your back, brothers and sisters yelling at each other and family members hovering over you.
Although it was stressful at times, working here was an amazing experience for me.
The hardest part is not to get starstruck over the celebrities, and I’m not talking about Buddy or Mauro. When a limo pulls up behind the store and Liam Payne walks in, don’t stare. Keep cool, ask him if he wants to try anything, let the customers fangirl when he walks out and start serving them.
Yes, I signed autographs and yes, I took pictures with fans (even though I was never actually on the show). I got stares as I walked the streets of Hoboken and everyone thinks I’m way cooler than I am.
But that “celebrity status” is not what it’s all about. As every member of the Carlo’s Bakery family near and far knows, it’s about the love that goes into each and every pastry and the tradition we carry forward.