By Veronica Dudo
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) – The 2012 Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival welcomed thousands of foodies to the resort to indulge in their favorite culinary dishes. Celebrity chefs made appearances, taught cooking demonstrations and mingled with fans. Presented by Caesars Entertainment, the fourth annual festival featured Paula Deen (Paula’s Best Dishes), Robert Irvine (Dinner Impossible), Tyler Florence (Food 911), Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods), Ann Burrell (Worst Cooks in America), Buddy Valastro (Cake Boss) and Nadia G. (Bitchin’ Kitchin).
Dozens of lavish events took place at Caesars, Harrah’s, Bally’s and Showboat celebrating all types of cuisine. New Jersey native Valastro, the star of TLC’s hit reality TV series “Cake Boss” was a headliner at the festival and talked about his TV show, Atlantic City memories, his most difficult cake and the possibility of opening another Carlo’s Bakery at the Jersey Shore.
As a NJ native how important is it to you to showcase the Garden State in a positive light?
Being a Jersey guy, I’m very proud just to be in the state and I always try to show Jersey in a positive light and I’m happy that my show does that. I always try to do things like the Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival so that I get to come here and hang out. And it’s part of my culture.
Do you have any fond memories of Atlantic City?
Atlantic City—I have so many fond memories! I remember coming doing here as a kid with my parents, they were walking down the boardwalk. And I remember coming down as a single guy in my early 20’s partying and playing!
In most of the episodes viewers watch, it appears as though you won’t be able to make the cake you wanted, but you always accomplish it. What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge is definitely the Transformers cake. It was really hard; we did succeed, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – for this upcoming season, I do fail. Do you want to know why I never fail and this is the truth–I hate to fail; it’s not in my DNA. I was taught to never give up; always figure out a way.
Today, being a celebrity chef is almost like being a rock star; how have you continued to grow your brand?
It’s funny because I do a live theater show and I travel all over the country–90 to 100 different cities and when I go out on stage to three, four thousand screaming fans, you really do feel like a rock star! It is crazy, it’s such a feeling I still get nervous after 90 shows! But, to know that I’m showing NJ in a good light, I don’t feel like I’m a reality TV show because I have a talent in what I do and I also think from being on TV I’ve learned more about what is the Buddy brand of TV and entertainment and the essence is family. Our show is in 187 countries all over the world and it’s viewed by almost one billion people worldwide. I’ve been to South Africa, I’ve been to Australia and I got treated and received like a rock star and it was amazing.
How do you manage everything in your life?
We try to take it one thing at a time. Whatever I do, I devote 100 percent of myself to that project or that time at the end of the day, you can’t lose sight of what’s important. I still am a dad, I still am a husband, a brother, a son, and there’s so many things that I still do. I’ve just always been the type of guy that I almost like responsibility, I like taking care of things and that’s just the way I am. I have a core group around me and we just handle any problems that come my way.
Any plans to open another Carlo’s Bakery at the Jersey Shore?
I think in my cards in the future we’ll definitely have something in Atlantic City some sort of bakery; it’s definitely on my map of expansions.
Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook.