Who would have imagined that life in a bakery would be so rife for comedy, drama and an occasional marriage proposal? That's exactly what you get in the second season of TLC's hit reality series "Cake Boss," which focuses on Buddy Valastro, the owner of Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. Executive Producer Art Edwards talked to our Jim Halterman last week about bringing the entire Valastro clan to television and how Buddy and crew are taking cake baking where it's never gone before.
Jim Halterman: How did you first come across Buddy and his Bake Shop?
Art Edwards: It's funny. I have known Buddy for a couple of years. He was a competitor on another show that I did for another network and he came to me about a year ago to say that he had been approached by TLC and they were interested in doing a show with him, his family and his bakery and he asked if we would get involved in a relationship. TLC found him first with the format and then he approached High Noon Entertainment as producers and it kind of worked out that way. I've done a lot of shows over the last 15 years and I think this is the best situation and the best work I've ever been involved in and it's a real privilege.
JH: Did you realize you'd struck gold when you met the rest of the Valastro family and the bake shop crew?
AE: Oh God, they're awesome. They are made for reality television. You meet some families and you say they should have their own reality show but those are the Valastros. You meet the sisters, you meet his mother, the brothers-in-law and they are built for television.
JH: "Cake Boss" hits on the gamut of emotions. Were you surprise at the onset that all that came with the package?
AE: You know, it really wasn't surprising. I've worked with cake and food shows for almost four years now and I know how seriously you have to be at work [and] what really happens in a bakery and what is done on a daily basis. That was a surprise how much passion there is and to see how madcap some of the antics can be. That was a bit surprising but the stuff is real. There's nothing that's staged in these shows. The guys were playing pranks with the producers. What's so weird about [the 'Cake Boss' crew] is that they're oblivious to the cameras. I've seen them scream and yell at each other with the cameras down and when the cameras come up it doesn't change a beat what they do.
JH: Were you surprised when audiences responded so well to the first season?
AE: Honestly, it was a surprise. I've been doing this for years and you never know. I was optimistic but to see how the show has taken off and how audiences responded to Buddy Valastro has been awesome since the show has begun. The way the business has taken off at the bakery is just phenomenal. Buddy is like a rock star in Hoboken. A group of women came in from Iowa with I LOVE CAKE BOSS t-shirts that they made - 9 of them - and they wanted to see Buddy. It's like a little amateur paparazzi when he walks through the storefront.
JH: So the fans aren't just watching but showing up at the Bake Shop?
AE: They have lines on the weekends that stretch out the bakery down the block that last for six to seven hours. It's just continuing to grow and grow. What we've found is that the sisters are trying to hustle people out but people kind of want to hang out, they want to look around; it's become a tourist destination at this point. They want to say hello to the sisters and people don't mind waiting. It's like a 'Cake Boss' fan club.
JH: Buddy is so talented at some of the creations he's come up with. Did he learn about baking from his family?
AE: He is completely self-taught. His father came over from Italy and got into the business at a really young age. Buddy grew up in a bakery. There are pictures of Buddy as a child playing with cakes. Buddy tells stories of being fifteen-sixteen years old and having to work in the bakery and seeing his friends outside the window. He was pretty much stuck in the bakery and that's how he wanted it. He just put in 10,000 hours before he was cake boss. It's in his blood.
JH: In the premiere episode, Buddy's mother comes out and yells at him for playing yet another prank on his cousin. When she screams "I'm the true Cake Boss!" is she right?
AE: She is a co-owner and [the bake shop] was willed to her by husband when he died so she runs the books, she cuts the checks for many people and that's how in her mind she is the boss. She's the bookkeeper but Buddy is the cake boss. He's the one who does the day-to-day operations; he runs the business.
JH: What are some of the other big event cakes that Buddy creates this season?
AE: You're going to see a cake that you have never seen before; you'll see a cake that weighs 2500 pounds that took fifty people to make. Buddy made this life-size car cake for a NASCAR event in Charlotte. They just finished that and they put in a couple hundred man-hours to complete. If it's not a world's record then I can't imagine what is.
JH: How much of the show is reliant on being on the East coast? Could they exist on the West coast?
AE: It would be a different show if they were not in New York. They're so East Coast. They're so New Jersey. I've talked to Buddy about whether he'd move to LA or somewhere else and he said, "Never!" He wants to die in New Jersey. It would be a fish out of water story if he were somewhere else. I don't think he's ever been to California. I don't think he's been west of Denver.
JH: And, of course, there must be more pranks coming up, right?
AE: Oh yeah. There are a ton of pranks. You put in so many hours in there and these guys are also so close that it's the kind of thing that keeps them sane. A lot of cake products do get dropped on your head, though.
The second season of "Cake Boss" airs tonight on TLC at 10:00/9:00c.