The winner of The Great American Baking Show shares her story of personal growth and more than 100 delicious recipes.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME OUT AND TASTE OF HOME • “As much about a collection of recipes that makes your mouth water and tugs at your heart with food memories as it is about the chronicles and life lessons of a true comeback kid.”—Carla Hall
Popular baking personality and lawyer turned baker Vallery Lomas was ecstatic when she learned she won the third season of The Great American Baking Show. However, her win was never seen by the world—Vallery’s season was pulled after just a few episodes when one of the judges became a focal point in a Me Too accusation. Rather than throwing in her whisk and lamenting all of the missed opportunities she hoped to receive (Book deal! Product endorsements! TV show!), she held her head high and hustled—which resulted in her getting press coverage everywhere from CNN to People magazine.
Now, Vallery debuts her first baking book. With 100 recipes for everything from Apple Cider Fritters to Lemon-Honey Madeleines and Crawfish Hand Pies to her Grandma’s Million Dollar Cake. Vallery shares heirloom family recipes from her native Louisiana, time spent in Paris, The Great American Baking Show, and of course sweets and breads inspired by her adopted hometown, New York City. Vallery’s “when life gives you lemons, make lemon curd” philosophy will empower legions of bakers and fans to find their inner warrior and bake their best life.
“Life Is What You Bake It is not only a collection of recipes but also an empowering book that shows us there’s often more possible than we can even imagine.”—Julia Turshen, bestselling author of Simply Julia, host of Keep Calm and Cook On podcast, and founder of Equity at the Table
“ Life Is What You Bake It is at once deeply personal and eminently practical. Vallery weaves together evocative stories about honoring family, overcoming disappointment, and pushing through fear. Her insightful tips and inspired recipes will help to make a champion out of any home baker. On top of that, her wisdom teaches us that baking is about more than creating something delicious; it’s a means of grounding oneself, connecting to others, and carrying on a personal legacy.” —Claire Saffitz, author of Dessert Person
“Lomas is an inspiration as a baker (have you seen Almost-Ate-the-Plate Carrot Cake?), a writer (headnote readers, you’re in for some beautiful storytelling), but also as a human being, pursuing her passion for baking and continuing it against seemingly impossible setbacks. We’re luckier for it.” —Deb Perelman, author of Smitten Kitchen Every Day
“I don’t know what’s more inspiring, Vallery’s incredible and deeply courageous story or her stunning, crave-worthy recipes. Life Is What You Bake It truly has it all: the kinds of stories that make you feel like you’re hanging out with a good friend, loads of tips that will help you become a better baker, and of course, baked goods that you’ll want to totally devour.” —Molly Yeh, Food Network host and cookbook author
“Chef Vallery’s story lets you know that if you can put your mind to it, you can achieve it. She also makes it clear that if you want delicious baked goods, you should take a page out of her book. From her simple nostalgic Strawberry Smash to her decadent bananas foster pancakes, there is a recipe in here for everyone!” —Kwame Onwuachi, author of Notes From a Young Black Chef, James Beard Rising Star Chef and judge on Top Chef
“[Vallery] will guide you with her endless charm and beautifully written recipes to bake like a champion.” —Zoë François, author of Zoë Bakes Cakes and TV host
“Vallery Lomas brings her trademark zest and enthusiasm to American classics and offers up a chapter of easy-to-master French pastries from her life in Paris. I can’t wait to bake my way through this delicious collection of recipes!” —David Lebovitz, author of Drinking French and My Paris Kitchen
“I LOVE IT! I felt immediately comforted and uplifted by Vallery’s writing, which is warm, engaging, and thoughtful. There’s something in the book for everybody, no matter their skill level or confidence.” —Ruby Tandoh, food writer and author of Eat Up!
“While the gorgeous photography and delicious recipes immediately drew me in, Vallery’s compelling journey and family history bring a depth and joy to each and every recipe.” —Sarah Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies and The Vanilla BeanBlog
“ The Great American Baking Show winner Lomas debuts with an inspiring collection that combines life lessons, family lore, and behind-the-scenes peeks at the reality show world, with more than 100 indulgent recipes.” —Publishers Weekly
Vallery Lomas is the winner of The Great American Baking Show and the first Black winner of the Great British Bake Off franchise. She hosts the digital show Vallery Bakes Your Questions on Food Network’s website and the Food Network Kitchen app. She has also appeared on CNN, the Today show, Live with Kelly & Ryan, the History Channel, and the Hallmark Channel. Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Vallery attended college and law school in Los Angeles, practiced law in Washington D.C., and spent a gap year in Paris—where she perfected both her French and pastry skills—before settling in Harlem. She is a frequent columnist and recipe contributor to the New York Times.
I quit my job as an attorney to become a baker for one simple reason: I had a burning desire to do something different with my life. I could not continue to give the best hours of my day to a job that I wasn’t passionate about. After I won The Great American Baking Show, I knew that I had a small window of opportunity to take advantage of my success and turn it into a new career path. Pursuing my foodie dreams while working a full-time job as an attorney felt like an impossible task, and I wanted to give myself a real shot to follow my dream career in food media. Five months after my winning television season had been cancelled, I made a firm decision to take the plunge.
Quitting my job felt like a rash decision, but my journals and therapist can attest otherwise: Baking full-time was something I had wanted for years. In some ways, I was already doing it. I spent mornings, nights, and weekends baking for Instagram. But in many ways, I wasn’t prepared at all. As a government attorney with a limited income, I had no assets, no savings, and many (many) student loans.
But what I did have was a vision of what my life could be! And I knew the importance of articulating that vision by writing it down and mapping out a path. I often tell myself: If you can’t even admit to yourself what your dreams are, how on earth can you translate them from your head to reality?
The path I mapped out included building a network of mentors and connecting with other food media pros. It did not include writer’s block, devoting significant time and energy to SponCon, and losing my senses of taste and smell temporarily, even though those are obstacles I overcame. Less than a year after quitting my job, I did it: I sold my cookbook proposal and was regularly booking work as a food media freelancer.
The rest is history.
I’m still surprised by my gall to start a food blog during my final year of law school instead of looking for a job. It was 2009, and the recession was in full force. I was filled with angst, but I decided to lean into what made me happy instead of dwelling on what I couldn’t control. I knew that baking made me happy, because I would excitedly jump out of bed to activate yeast or bake muffins to share with my classmates. And within days of my first experimental recipes, I started to document the results in a blog. I began my final year of law school in an obsessive baking mode, and I baked something new every day that school year.
I have to admit—if there had been no recession, there would have been no blog. And if there had been no blog, there would have been no atFoodieInNewYork Instagram account seven years later. And if there had been no Instagram account, I wouldn’t have been discovered by a casting director for The Great American Baking Show. And if I hadn’t been on The Great American Baking Show, I’d probably be looking up case law while sitting in a cubicle instead of living out the bravest life I dared to dream.