Collingswood duo happy with second place on 'Great Baker'

Manny Agigian (left) and Al DiBartolo look through People magazine for cake challenge inspiration.
Manny Agigian (left) and Al DiBartolo look through People magazine for cake challenge inspiration. (TLC)
Posted: August 22, 2014

The word is out: The Jersey guys didn't take the cake, but they did the Garden State and themselves proud.

Tuesday night's fourth season finale of the TLC cooking show Next Great Baker revealed that South Jersey's own Al DiBartolo, 39, and Manny Agigian, 34, of DiBartolo's Bakery in Collingswood, placed second out of 10 teams.

Winners Al Watson, 31, and Lia Weber, 24, bakers from St. Louis, got $100,000 and the option of working for a year with "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro at his new bakery at the Venetian resort hotel in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, DiBartolo, who pretty much grew up in his family's shop, said that of course he would have liked to have won, but he's proud of his and pastry chef Agigian's efforts.

"There's no bitterness at all. We went the distance," DiBartolo said.

If anything, he said, he would love the opportunity to do more television - and he let the folks at TLC know it.

"I told them personally - most of the producers and Buddy himself - I'm literally a phone call away," he said.

Their Italian fountain cake fell to Watson and Weber's Japanese garden and pagoda - the Italian fountain had structural and time issues - but the Jersey bakers had quite a ride.

For one thing, the season was shot in advance, so they had to keep the outcome a secret for months.

"My own children didn't even know," DiBartolo said.

The wives knew only because the show flew them to Las Vegas, where the final challenge was filmed, he said.

Needless to say, people asked anyway. And not surprisingly, DiBartolo's saw a bump in customers this summer, including people who wanted their photograph taken with the bakers.

"This was beautiful for the bakery business," DiBartolo said. "This is probably one of the best commercials you could have."

The buzz wasn't just local.

Facebook "friend requests have been unbelievable from around the country," including from other cake artists, he said.

Earlier this week on a family outing to Virginia, "I heard a woman scream, 'Jersey boy!' " he said. The next day at a water park, he noticed two girls staring his way.

"I said, 'It's me.' They said, 'Cake Boss.' "

Agigian was away on vacation and couldn't be reached. But DiBartolo said that if other challenges come their way, they would be up for it.

"We appreciated every moment from when we were working to when we weren't," he said of the contest and taping the episodes. "When we walked into that arena, I never felt more alive."


rgiordano@phillynews.com

856-779-3893

@ritagiordano

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