The line started forming at 2 am. By 8 am, hundreds of people snaked through The Woodlands Mall: all of them eager to get a taste of the newly opened Carlo’s Bakery kiosk and to meet Buddy Valastro, better known as the Cake Boss for his staring role in the TLC reality series.
Announced earlier this month when Valastro’s brother-in-law, Carlo’s head baker Joe Faugno, came to Houston to present a cake at Taste of the NFL, the Carlo’s kiosk serves a “greatest hits” mix of pastries, including cookies, cannoli, and the signature lobster tail, a flaky puffed pastry filled with French cream and a touch of Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Carlo’s already has both a full-service bakery and a kiosk in the Dallas-area. Valastro tells CultureMap that the success of those operations inspired him to search for additional opportunities in Texas.
“We knew (The Woodlands) was going to be a great place to open a bakery, but seeing all the turnout today, all the fans from all over, just such a humbling feeling,” Valastro says. “We’re so excited to be here. Every time I come to Texas the fans just make me feel so great.”
Baking in the Houston area can be a challenge, but Valastro says they mitigate those concerns by preparing the raw ingredients in New Jersey. Everything is baked fresh at the kiosk, and Valastro supervised final touches ahead of Saturday morning’s opening at 8:30 am.
“I want people to have the same exact quality they have in New Jersey,” Valastro says. “I want people to realize this is not a fast food model of what I do. It’s the same cannoli or lobster tail you’d get in Hoboken.”
Speaking of the lobster tail, Valastro didn’t hesitate to name the pastry as his favorite item Carlo's serves. “That’s my, 'if I’m going to the electric chair what would be the last dessert you’d ever'? It would be one of those,’ he says.
Of course, Valastro is no stranger to Houston. He performed a theater show here in 2011, and taped two episodes of Bakery Boss, his Kitchen Nightmares-style turnaround show, in 2013 at Drew’s Pastry Place and Not Jus’ Donuts.
Given that track record and Saturday morning’s turnout, it should come as no surprise that Valastro and his team are scouting locations to open a full-service bakery in the Houston-area. Doing so would allow customers to purchase the show-stopping cakes that are featured on Cake Boss.
“By coming to The Woodlands and feeling things out, I think that will tell us where to go,” Valastro says. “I love Houston. Such a great city. Seeing the reaction from the fans here, it’s so heartwarming. It’s amazing.”
Debbie Haseltine contributed to this article.