Surrounded by people constantly videotaping or snapping pictures of him, Buddy Valastro looked a little like a rock star Thursday when he made an appearance at the grand opening of the Market District in Pine Township.
Valastro—star of TLC's Cake Boss show—was scheduled for a 1 p.m. signing for his latest book, Baking with the Cake Boss: 100 of Buddy's Best Recipes and Decorating Secrets.
But he wowed the crowd beforehand when he unveiled a humongous cake creation that paid tribute to Pittsburgh, with a replica of the Duquesne Incline on Mount Washington, downtown skyscrapers, ice skaters and more.
"I felt like I owed it to the people of Pittsburgh because, like I said, I travel all over the country and some places I go to it’s 300 people, 500 people (who show up to see me)," Valastro said.
"But whenever I come to Pittsburgh, it’s like 3,000. It’s like, amplified. And they make me feel like home," Valastro continued. "They make me feel like they love me, and it’s really family-oriented. That’s really who I am. and I think that’s why whenever I come here it’s a big deal."
Bonnie Popko of Middlesex was all smiles after Valastro signed her book.
"I told him I just love his program," she said when asked what she said to the celebrity chef while getting her book signed.
"He's so wholesome, a delight, a family man spreading his love of baking to the world," said Popko, who said she also loves baking. "I love seeing the children here and that spark in their eyes when they learn to love baking.."
Kids and adults can learn about baking and the creativity that goes into it at any age, she said.
The Cake Boss gave hugs and high-fives to the children who came to him with books to sign as moms quickly snapped photos.
Another fan was Mary Ann Gottron, who came to the Market District from Ross Township with her husband, Dave, and son, Andy, after seeing Valastro on the KDKA morning show.
"She's a Buddy freak," her husband said.
She said they went to Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, NJ, which is run by Buddy Valastro and his family, and found a line so long they had to wait two hours to get in. They did not have the time to wait that day, so she hurried down to Market District as soon as she heard about Valastro's appearance, she said.
About 250 fans got free tickets in advance for the book signing and queued up in a line that wended its way down and around a few aisles in Market District.
Valastro signed their books, smiled, gave them hugs and posed for pictures as TV cameras rolled and onlookers snapped photos too.
Just like a rock star.
The grand opening festivities will continue through Sunday in the store at 155 Towne Centre Drive in Wexford. Celebrity chefs, ice sculptors, a cheese carver, an ice-skating rink in the parking lot and free food samples are part of the planned opening festivities.