“Cake Boss” was one of the top-rated reality TV shows on TLC (The Learning Channel) and captivated the audience for over a decade. Although each season seemed more exciting and extravagant than the previous one, things quietly ended in 2020 after the show changed its production network, mainly because an unforeseen injury prevented its top star, Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro Jr., from working on what he loves the most, to the dismay of fans of cake art.

Luckily, the baking shop featured on the show is still open, and the business expanded to locations in over a dozen states and two more countries. Moreover, Buddy recovered and resumed his TV appearances in other shows. Let’s explore what the Cake Boss is doing now.

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Who is Buddy Valastro?

Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr. was born on 3 March 1977, in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA, where he grew up and in Little Ferry in the same state. Both his mother, Mary, and father, Buddy Sr, were from Italy – his family moved to New Jersey when he was six. Buddy was interested in cooking and baking from a young age, and attended baking courses at the Teterboro Campus at the Bergen County Technical High School, while attending Ridgefield Park High School.

His father bought what would become the family business, Carlo’s Bake Shop, also known as Carlo’s Bakery, in 1964, 54 years after Carlo Guastaferro, whose name it carries, founded it. Buddy began working alongside his father when he was 11, and took over the family business at 17 in 1994, when his father passed away. He said ‘he went home after the funeral, took the suit off, put on the baker’s outfit, and returned to work.’

Buddy grew up with four sisters, Grace, Mary, Maddalena and Lisa, who also worked in the family bakery and cake shop. Mary attracted the most attention when Buddy fired her during the fifth season in 2012 for inappropriate statements, swearing that she would never manage the business, but hired her months later as a consultant. His mom never stopped loving his father, but remarried at some point to Sergio Picinich with the family’s approval and remained married to him until her death.

His career in “Cake Boss”

Buddy was best known as the head baker and host of “Cake Boss,” a reality TV show that follows the Valastro family, including his four sisters and mom, employees, as well as himself, during the daily operations of Carlo’s Bake Shop. It premiered on 19 April 2009, and was broadcast on TLC until 2 December 2017, when Buddy took a two-year break to mourn his mother Mary’s death – who had ALS which attacks the nervous system – but passed away  from pneumonia on 22 June, surrounded by family, after also battling Lou Gehrig’s disease for eight years. Five days later, in her honor, he closed all locations worldwide for a day. At the time, he said, ‘I haven’t been back to Hoboken since she died, and I know that when I go there, I’ll definitely break down.’

Buddy and his sisters returned to TV screens on 18 May 2019, but on TLC’s sister network, Discovery Family. His comeback somewhat confirmed reports that he wanted to restructure the show’s format, so that it became more accessible to kids.

When the season ended on 11 April 2020, Buddy decided to pursue different goals, including producing and appearing on Food Network shows. However, he earns royalties from reprises of his main show, which is available on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video.

Campaigns and promotions

Although Buddy has advocated for many causes since first appearing on TV, two are notable. He launched Mama Mary Foundation after his mom received an ALS diagnosis in 2009 to help raise funds and awareness. Additionally, he supported Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey from 2010 to 2018, during his 2013 re-election and presidential campaign in 2016. Buddy also promoted Special Olympics USA National Games, which held the competition in his home state in 2014. Moreover, he collaborated with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. on their Rethink Sweet campaign and became the ambassador for their zero or low-calorie sweeteners. Furthermore, he was inducted into the 2017 New Jersey Hall of Fame in the Enterprise category for promoting his home state.

Expanding his hospitality industry empire

From the get-go, fans could see that Buddy wanted to leverage his TV popularity to expand his business empire. That happened, starting with building a factory in Jersey City on a leased plot called Lackawanna Center in 2010, because the shop became too small to accommodate customers, and the need for baking and delivery. His facility now has 70,000 square feet or 6,500m2 and employs more than 1,500 people. With newly expanded capabilities, Buddy opened the first branch, Cake Boss Cafe, in New York City, on 24 May 2011 and the first full-fledged bakery in Ridgewood, New Jersey, in February 2013.

As of late February 2023, Buddy owns 20 bakeries, five in New Jersey, down from the seven he opened, and two in Canada, in Ottawa and Yorkville, with nationwide shipping and online orders. He also has a string of vending machines that sell cake and baked goods that extend up to Canada. Plus in 2018, he launched a line of cookies entitled Buddy Valastro Foods, that utilize fondant, Italian Biscotti, and buttercream icing.

In March 2014, Buddy ventured into the high-end restaurant industry with Buddy V’s Ristorante, an Italian cuisine establishment in a prime location, the Grand Canal Shoppes, at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas. As of 2023, four restaurants are open. Moreover, in June 2014, Buddy expanded his reach by starting a catering and event planning company, Buddy V’s Events, headquartered in New Jersey.

He has a food truck business, Buddy’s Jersey Eats, that features food he grew up eating, and specialized restaurants such as Pizza Cake by Buddy Valastro, inside the Harrah’s casino in Las Vegas. Recent notable business deals have been the 100th anniversary of Klondike in mid-2022, when the company hired him to create a 10-tier cake, and a promotion for Pinkerton’s Barbecue in Texas in January 2023.

Creating Cakehouse Media

Buddy co-founded the production company Cakehouse Media out of Jersey City in 2014, alongside Art Edwards. Art had invited him to appear in “Food Network Challenge,” a 2005 cooking show where he realized he was comfortable in front of cameras, and helped him produce “Cake Boss” in 2008. Art is a well-known writer, producer and director, who led the behind-the-scenes effort on many other shows, including the reality TV series “The Bachelor.”

Buddy formed the company to become an executive producer of TV shows, and repeat his success with Art’s help. Through the company, the two produce “Unpolished,” which premiered on TLC in November 2019 and followed a family the media called ‘a scaled-down version of the Kardashians’. Additionally, the company launched two “Cake Boss” spin-offs entitled “Bake You Rich” and “Big Time Bake” in 2019 and 2020 respectively, on Food Network.

At the time, Buddy hinted that this would let him appear on-screen and orchestrate things away from the spotlight, if his “Cake Boss” run ended. This prediction came true when he produced a cooking show entitled “Undercover Chef” in 2020, led by chef Mark Estee shortly before he got injured. His company also produces his wife’s podcast, What’s Up Cuz?, since late July 2020.

Expanding to Brazil

Buddy became an executive producer and primary judge for a Brazilian cooking show entitled “Batalha dos Confeiteiros” – or “Battle of the Bakers” – between 2015 and 2018. On 8 December 2016, he hired Rick Zavala, one of the TV show winners, to manage a bakery branch in São Paulo, the first bakery he opened outside of the US. Carlo’s Bakery São Paulo celebrated its sixth anniversary in 2022, and is still in business.

Improving his health

In 2018, Buddy announced that he’d lost roughly 35lb or 16kg using Medifast’s OPTAVIA diet program of six small daily meals. At the time, he told People magazine, ‘I’m not doing it because I’m trying to look good; I’m doing it to feel better. I feel so much better now. When you lose weight, you feel good, look better, and your clothes fit.’ He didn’t start earlier because he was comfortable, and ‘not the sensitive type who cares if people call him fat or skinny.’

Marriage and family

On top of being a TV personality, businessman, and a pillar in the New Jersey community, Buddy Valastro is a family man in a long-term marriage. He married Elisabetta “Lisa” Valastro on 14 October 2001, and the couple has four children, Sofia, born in April 2003; Bartolo “Buddy Jr.” III in September 2004; Marco in February 2007, and Carlo Salvatore, born on Valentine’s Day in 2011 weighing 7lb 3oz or 3.25kg. The same year, the couple renewed their vows for their 10th anniversary.

Buddy never hid the fact that he wanted his family to inherit and expand his legacy; hence he started involving them in the business from a young age. Although when interviewed at age 45 he declared that he wasn’t ready to retire, citing the need for baking as an outlet for ideas and creativity, he would want his oldest son to be at the helm. Buddy Jr. accepted his father’s wishes, saying, ‘Now that I’m older, I want to be there for my dad. I want to learn from him. One day, I do want to take over the business.’ In 2022, he commented that his children would implement more trendy items, and share ideas on creating things at the bakery, which he applauded.

Drunk driving incident

On 13 November 2014, he was arrested for driving under the influence – DUI – in Hells’s Kitchen in New York. He admitted to drinking 30 to 40 minutes before he sat in his yellow 2014 Corvette at 1 a.m. and tried to sweet-talk his way by saying ‘he was a good guy.’ Nonetheless, he spent a night in jail, but was released without bail after he refused to plead guilty the next day.

Buddy hired a lawyer and handled the matter away from the spotlight. However, when his signature TV show didn’t air past 2020, some people on social media began grasping at straws to cause drama or have fun, suggesting that he’d lost the court case, and had to serve a sentence.

Love for boating

Although he rarely bragged, Buddy had a 32-foot Boston Whaler boat he used for family outings. Fans learned of this in one of the most unfortunate ways; he and his family got lost in the thick fog near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn in June 2014. Thankfully, New York City Fire Department heard his plea for help and rescued him. Additionally, he made a public announcement that he ‘joined the Scout family’, after buying a Scout 380LXF boat in late January 2018.

Other televised appearances

As his “Cake Boss” time drew to a close, Buddy struck a multi-show deal with Food Network. One of the first results of their collaboration was a one-on-one competition show entitled “Buddy vs. Duff,” which aired in 2019. He faced Duff Goldman of “Ace of Cakes” fame for the title King of Cakes. The two filmed three seasons to settle a score, and Buddy won 2-1 with a score of 247 to 245 in the finale, which aired in September 2021. They returned for a special, “Buddy vs. Duff: Holiday,” in December of that year. This time, Duff won with 40-35, and received $25,000 for his Off Their Plate charity.

In 2019, besides becoming a host and producer of his spin-off “Bake You Rich,”, “Beat Bobby Flay” TV show producers invited him to be a guest judge. He returned as a contestant, and beat Bobby Flay in an episode entitled “No Cake Walk” on 3 May 2020. Buddy also launched a second competition show the same year, “Buddy vs. Christmas”, which allowed non-bakers among his fans to work by his side to create cake art in under 24 hours.

Getting his right-hand badly injured in 2020, and the aftermath

In September 2020, Buddy suffered a freak incident in the bowling alley of his New Jersey home in Montville. While trying to reset a stuck pinsetter from the cage mechanism, the machinery came alive, and a metal rod impaled him between the middle and ring finger several times. Thankfully, he stayed calm while his family called 911, and his sons Buddy Jr. and Marco used a reciprocating saw to cut the metal rod and free him.

He claims that not panicking made a crucial difference, because he was in his driveway before the ambulance arrived. Medical professionals in his fan base later explained this decision likely reduced the bleeding.

Sadly, the accident left his dominant right hand severely injured, and he couldn’t make a fist for some time. Although terrified, he trusted the doctors and underwent two emergency operations and four cosmetic and reconstructive operations. In June 2021, he succeeded at a personal challenge of strength – opening a lobster tail with his right hand.

Months later, in late September, Buddy appeared on NBC News for an update on his health, and jokingly revealed that he would never be a hand model. However, he was happy with the progress since the nerves in his hand regenerated, and instead of tingly and asleep, his hand feels ‘about 95% back to normal’ after being at 75% of his previous strength in April. Additionally, to thank the doctors for their help, Buddy built a New York Hospital for Special Surgery building replica out of cake, and presented it on 30 December.

Signing an A&E contract in 2022

On 30 June 2022, news broke that Buddy had adjusted his goals, and instead of signing with Warner Bros. Discovery yet again, he signed a media deal with A+E Networks. In the contract, his company Cakehouse Media vowed to executive produce all projects for A+E Networks brands, which will distribute them worldwide. Although the specifics are undisclosed, the deal includes over 60 hours of original content, and the development of holiday specials and series. Interestingly, Buddy’s contract involves filming a Lifetime holiday movie with his family.

A+E Networks called him ‘a powerhouse in the culinary world, an incredible talent who shares our passion and will bolster their catalog as a bona fide star with a tremendous fanbase.’

Buddy commented that the deal was everything his family and he wanted on television, calling them ‘a media company with worldwide reach and distribution, and thoughtful, creative partners who can execute their shared vision.’

Will “Cake Boss” return?

With all the items of information made public, there is no conclusive date about season 10 of “Cake Boss.” However, Buddy will undoubtedly continue appearing on TV, and via shows streamed over the Internet. Also, the fact that he opened his fourth restaurant in 2021, signed a multi-platform media deal in 2022, and opened a Canada bakery in 2023, suggests that his injury hasn’t hindered his progress. Although there are no indications, even if Buddy retires, his children will be ready to take over, with his help.

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