“The Great American Baking Show” season 3 winner, Vallery Lomas, shares her passion for food in her debut cookbook, “Life Is What You Bake It: Recipes, Stories, and Inspiration to Bake Your Way to the Top.”
She pulls inspiration from her parents and grandparents, growing up in Louisiana and practicing law in Manhattan. Her travels also influenced her selections and anecdotes shared in the cookbook. After all, she dedicates a chapter to France where she learned to speak French and hone in on her pastry skills.
Inspired by Family
The hardcover showcases the best-looking table of contents I’ve seen. The seven sections highlight a dish appropriate for each title: 1) Morning Treats, 2) En France, 3) Cookies & Bars, 4) Cobblers, Pies & Tarts, 5) Cakes, 6) Bread and 7) Doughnuts & Other Fried Things.
Initially, I wanted to flip through the pages with excitement. However, I got sidetracked by the cinnamon roll image before making it to the introduction. Beautiful. Kudos to the photographer for capturing the vision for this book and providing readers with “eye candy” and intimate moments.
In addition, I love the historical photos provided by Lomas. They complement her heartfelt stories nicely, especially the one about great-grandma Lillie’s biscuit legacy.
The published manuscript features more than 100 mouthwatering recipes, with Lomas adding endnotes and storage tips to some which are helpful. The ingredient lists contain items commonly found in local grocery stores and the instructions are straightforward.
The worst part is deciding what to prepare first – so many options, so little time. You know the Old School Dinner Rolls recipe must be good; it’s been in Lomas’ family for more than 100 years. I have my stomach set on the Bananas Foster Oven-Baked Pancake, the Twice-Baked Almond Croissants, the German Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, the Crawfish Hand Pies and the Beignet Fingers.
In addition, I’m ready to experience the Pecan Candy Cheesecake, the winning dessert from “The Great American Baking Show” finale. I wish a picture opposite the recipe accompanied the recipe like the others. Instead, it’s displayed on the segment divider among other cakes. Still, the name alone makes me salivate.
From Lawyer to Winning Baker
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this self-taught baker learned the basics from watching her mother and granny. At 11 years old, she was asked to carry on the tradition of making Granny’s Million Dollar Cake. She was honored.
After high school, Lomas moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. In 2009, she started a food blog her final year in law school. She used her flip phone camera to chronicle her baking adventures. She didn’t feel connected to the baking community until she joined Instagram using the handle @foodieinnewyork.
There, she gained followers and interest from casting agents. By this time, she had been working as a lawyer in Manhattan, New York, for years. A day after her 32nd birthday, she received a voicemail message to compete on “The Great American Baking Show.” She flew to London for the filming. The long hours took their toll on her. However, she won the grueling competition, becoming the first Black woman to do so on “The Great British Bake-Off” franchise.
She returned home to her job where she had taken time off without pay. ABC aired the first two episodes for the premiere. Then, the show was canceled due to sexual harassment claims against one of the judges. This didn’t stop Lomas.
She connected with a publicist to announce her win to the world. It opened the flood gates for public appearances. A few months after winning the baking show, she quit her job as an attorney to become a full-time baker. She sold her book proposal a year later and worked as a food media freelancer. She has also appeared on CNN, the “Today Show,” “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” the History Channel and the Hallmark Channel.
Lomas hopes cooks and bakers discover new techniques and favorite desserts. I have. “Life is What You Bake It” also teaches us how triumphs can be sweet, how resilient we are, and how culinary storytelling keeps food traditions alive. I like this cookbook and highly recommend it.
The accomplished baker hosts the show “Vallery Bakes Your Questions” on Foodnetwork.com and the Food Network Kitchen app. She is also a columnist and recipe contributor for the New York Times.
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