Tiffany Varma picked her daughter up from school Friday with a surprise in store.
They were going to see someone special, she told her.
“Santa?” asked 7-year-old Sophiya.
“No, it’s better than seeing Santa,” her mother replied.
“The Easter Bunny?”
“It’s not Easter,” Mom said.
“The Christmas bunny? Frosty the Snowman?”
“I kept guessing and guessing and guessing and guessing until I just gave up,” said Sophiya.
It wasn’t until the mother-daughter pair from Schenectady showed up at Niskayuna’s Price Chopper supermarket that Tiffany Varma finally told her daughter they were going to meet the Cake Boss, causing the 7-year-old’s jaw to drop.
Nobody is a bigger fan of the Cake Boss — also known as Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro — than Sophiya. Every day
after school, she sits down, does her homework, loads Netflix and watches the TLC reality show “Cake Boss.”
“Every day, without fail,” said Tiffany Varma.
Valastro was in town Friday signing copies of his books “Cake Boss” and “Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss.” He also signed — in frosting — cakes from his Cake Boss line, including the Bada Bloom, It’s My Party, Va Va Velvet, Dulce De Leche and Oh My Ganache!
“He makes interesting cakes, and he can make cakes that can light up and swirl around like the barber shop cake,” said Sophiya as she waited with her mom in a line that stretched through half of the store.
Although Valastro performed a live holiday show at Proctors later in the evening, his visit to Price Chopper was a real showstopper. People of all ages swamped the store to wait in line for a chance to meet the fourth-generation baker. More than 400 people showed up to the Friday event, store officials estimated.
Now in its fifth season, “Cake Boss” takes place at Carlo’s Bakery, the family bakery in Hoboken, N.J., where Valastro balances family drama with big cake builds.
During his whirlwind stop at Price Chopper, local residents said they didn’t mind the long wait for a chance to meet the man with all the talent.
“Oh my God, I love it,” said Tiffany Varma. “I love it. The things that he does are absolutely amazing. He made a cake for his brother-in-law’s boss, who was retiring, that looked just like a fireman’s hat. He’s amazing.”
It was the same adjective Penny Wilpers, 56, of Schenectady, used to describe Valastro.
“I think he’s amazing,” she gushed. “Everything he does, the work he does, and the whole group actually. The talent that goes into their cakes just blows my mind.”
Ashley Derkowski, 16, has watched the show since it premiered and eventually managed to get her mother watching it, too. They waited patiently in line Friday, Ashley holding a book and her mom, Christine, holding a Cake Boss cake.
“She started watching it, and I got sucked in, too,” said Christine Derkowski, 38, of Scotia. “She called me over and was like, ‘Mom, look at this cake that he made.’ And I looked and it was just so extravagant. It was just so cool. The other day, he made this Dr. Seuss cake. It was huge. It had spinning wheels and everything on it.”
Because Price Chopper was the first retailer in the area to carry Valastro’s new line of cakes, the supermarket chain was told it could bring him in for an in-store appearance. And with Valastro currently on tour, doing live cake demonstrations as part of “Buddy Valastro Live! Homemade for the Holidays Tour,” the Price Chopper and Proctors’ events lined up perfectly.
A native Jersey boy himself, Price Chopper bakery director Jay Mandrillo admitted to being a big fan of the show. He milled about the store Friday, watching fans have their pictures taken with the Cake Boss.
“He could hand decorate a cake in about two minutes, something that would probably take you or I about two hours,” Mandrillo said.
As the line to see Valastro continued to grow Friday afternoon and security guards helped control the crowd, the Varmas grew increasingly excited to see their culinary hero. Sophiya helps her mom bake every Christmas, and hopes to eventually make cakes like Buddy when she grows up.
“I made a construction paper cake, and when I go to his bakery, I want to bring it to him and show him, and I want him to make it for me,” said Sophiya.
Her mom plans to drive her to Carlo’s Bakery for her birthday in April.