Back in June I was issued a challenge by the TLC Cake Crew: make a video featuring your favorite summer dessert for a shot at interviewing Buddy Valastro. It was a competition after my own heart – a chance to act stupid, make dessert and talk to my favorite Jersey native (eat it, Snooki.) I threw on my Elvis shades and whipped up the Cake Shake, Rattle and Roll, a combination of cupcakes, milkshakes, vegan food, terrible puns and cowboy boots that was destined for greatness. A few months later I was crowned the champ, and set up on a conference call with America’s favorite baker, Buddy Valastro.

Being the couch potato that I am, I’ve been watching Buddy decorate cakes on TV for years. I always loved his “I don’t need this crap” attitude on Food Network’s Cake Challenge, his larger-than-life assistant Mauro, and his Kerry Vincent-defying skills with a piping bag. So when Cake Boss debuted on TLC you can bet Tony and I were instant fans. Plus, my first job in Chicago was at an Italian bakery called Letizia’s and all the yelling and hand-waving brought me back to those days of pressing out 225 caramel nut crostata in an hour while Fabio and Letizia yelled at each other over the sound of NPR on the radio.

I’ve never been to Carlo’s Bakery (all my trips to the East Coast were made during my 5 years of veganism so my snackventures were limited) but from my own experience shooting reality shows, it’s as real as it gets. Sure, they edit it down to the yelling and the dumping-buckets-of-junk-on-people, but as a hand-waiving, yelling Italian girl, I can tell you that the family interactions are real… and from my 15 minutes with Buddy, I got a sense that he’s a genuine guy as well.

So I hope you like the interview, I apologize for the sound – I was recording in my office in downtown Chicago and it’s noisy there. One of my Twitter followers called this “the battle of the accents.” Thanks again to TLC and to Buddy for setting this up – and if you need a dinner date in Chicago, I know my way around Taylor Street.