Buddy Valastro nearly missed his season three win of Buddy vs. Duff.
The Cake Boss baker had a total of five reconstructive hand surgeries after crushing his hands in a terrible accident at his home bowling alley, and the last one he underwent was just a month before filming began for season three.
Buddy Valastro’s 5th Hand Surgery Is Not His Final One But The Prognosis Is Good
“Before [the surgery], I really couldn’t do nothing,” he tells PEOPLE. “I couldn’t do cakes. I really couldn’t squeeze a bag. My fingers were so stiff, I couldn’t even bend them.”
Thankfully, that most recent surgery was a “game-changer” and Valastro was able to move his hand more easily and even make a fist.
“It was scary because I didn’t know if I was going to even be able to compete,” says Valastro. “Yeah, I could have used my brain to help develop the cakes or ideas or did things. But thank God we were able to do it, and it was awesome.”
However, for Buddy, winning the Food Network show wasn’t a top priority.
“Honestly that season wasn’t about winning or losing. The fact that I was able to go back and do my craft was the win,” he admits. “I didn’t really care about winning…or beating Duff. I really wanted to say, ‘Hey, look, I could still do this, and do it at this level.’ “
And so, he did! In the end, Buddy’s life-size dragon cake is what ultimately beat Duff Goldman in the finale.
While making “some of the craziest cakes” is a massive accomplishment for the master baker, there was one particular skill he really wanted to tackle to prove he had his strength back: opening a lobster tail.
“It’s like a hand motion where you have to really use your fingers to open it,” he said of the very hands-on action.
Valastro, who admits he has 90% of his strength back, says he has one final surgery later this year to help correct his grip and straighten out his fingers.
The father of four credits his recovery to his family. He shares that his wife constantly helped him along with his kids — Sofia, 19, Buddy Jr., 17, Marco, 15, and Carlo, 11.
“Every night my kids would put me in bed,” he recalls. “Every night my son, Marco, was like, ‘Dad, I’m going to tuck you in.’ And I would be going to bed and he would put all the pillows under me and stuff.”
Valastro, who is almost completely recovered, said he was able to get through the challenging times because of his family.
“It was one of those things where it shows you how important family is,” he says. “We take for granted the little things like you opening the door or just doing something with your hand. It makes you appreciate the little things so much.”
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