It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Vallery Lomas, a full-time attorney but part-time baker and blogger, was going to have the chance to show the world the type of creations her hands were capable of as a contestant on The Great American Baking Show. She’d filmed the entirety of the cooking competition series in September, taking time off of work to participate. She was excited to have friends, family and followers see how things had turned out. But a little over a week after the newest season of the American spinoff premiered, it was abruptly cancelled.
The show was pulled off of the air by ABC after only one episode. One of the two judges, Johnny Iuzzini, found himself dealing with sexual misconduct allegations from the past that had resurfaced. Because there were only two judges, and they only filmed together, there was no way to edit Iuzzini out of the show, so ABC made the decision to cancel the whole thing. Ayesha Curry and Spice Adams’s first opportunities to host a TV show were taken from them, and Lomas, along with her fellow competitors, lost their own chance to share their talents with a national audience. When I talked with Lomas about the situation, she had the perfect baker’s response to the cancellation.
“I’ve been making lemon curd from the lemons of the show getting pulled by the network,” the 32-year-old said.
She’s angry, and rightfully so, but more so sad about the unexpected ending to her television debut.
“It was such a labor of love on the part of everyone there,” she said. “This was an opportunity for all of us.”
But the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native who now resides and bakes in New York has chosen to look at the bright side of things. She still has a popular web site called Foodie in New York (with beautiful photographs she’s taken herself), more than 12,000 followers and growing on her Foodie in New York Instagram, and her love of baking is stronger than ever. She also is still holding out hope that episodes may be released digitally. The sky, or the pie, is the limit.
We talked with Lomas about her experience on the reality competition show and dealing with the cancellation, her hopes for the episodes that the public didn’t get to see, and most importantly, what’s next for her.
MadameNoire: How long have you been baking? Who got you into it?
Vallery Lomas: During the holidays all of my life, my mom, she’s big on tradition. So we would make my great-great Aunt Hester’s rolls, or my grandmother’s strawberry delight. But it was just something we did during the holidays. And then, my third year of law school, my sister, she was coping with the loss of a loved one, so I thought us baking would be a fun distraction. But it was really me baking and her eating. That was 2009. I had always blogged before that, but just my random thoughts about things. I thought it would be fun to start a food blog because I was baking every day. Plus, the economy was tanking, so instead of thinking about what I would do after law school, I put my energy towards something more creative. Just to have that creative outlet to express myself was so totally different than what I was doing on the day to day, being a law student. So that was when I really started exploring different recipes and doing everything. Any cookbook I could get my hands on. And when I finished law school, I went to France for a year. It was just like these beautiful pastries and macarons. And when I got back from France I was like, “I can make that stuff!” Through a lot of trial and error, like a lot of error, I actually did learn how to make that stuff. I think that developed the baking philosophy I have now. I embrace mistakes. I’m self-taught, so every mistake I make I know is getting me closer to perfecting that recipe or that technique.
So how did the opportunity to be on The Great American Baking Show come about? How did you decide that you were going to compete?
It’s interesting because, I’m naturally a very competitive person. I didn’t realize I was an overachiever until very recently, maybe like a little bit over a year ago. To me, my baking was always something that I wanted to share with people, which was always why blogging was a great outlet. Actually, someone reached out to me and suggested that I put myself out there and try for it. I did it and it worked out, which I was kind of surprised about, just because to me, it was kind of random. It wasn’t something that was on my radar. So I saw it as this gift that kind of fell in my lap.
In the premiere, you were touted as the baker to beat. Days after the premiere aired, you found out that the show was being pulled. How did you find out and what was your immediate reaction to this news?
I got a phone call from the production company and you know, I think at first it was shock and just disbelief. I couldn’t believe that it was happening. And then it quickly turned into feelings of anger. And since then, it’s alternated between. It’s weird because I’m not the type of person who typically gets angry. I get sad. And obviously, just feeling it was unfair. And that’s kind of a silly word to use because we all know that life’s not fair. But this really, it felt unfair. It’s a weird time we’re in because, you know, obviously there’s a spotlight right now on sexual harassment. As a woman, and a Black woman being in Harlem, I experience sexual harassment. Walking to the subway, sometimes I feel like it’s like little land mines that can blow up anywhere with the comments. Some people even touch you and it’s really awful. I did read the allegations, and of course, I recognize sexual harassment is an issue and it’s something that we absolutely have to deal with. That being said, there’s a lot of collateral damage with the way that sometimes these situations are dealt with. Obviously we have to respect the victims. Especially in the case like this show where it’s a lot of women competing. There were a lot of women in the crew, and we’ve all faced our share of harassment as well. So, it’s unfortunate that we are kind of bearing the brunt of that punishment as well.
No matter what comes of this situation as far as a digital release, what’s next for you?
I’m working on a cookbook. I’ve been working on it really diligently for like the past four months. I’m definitely hoping to be back gracing television screens. I’m hopeful that there are going to be other opportunities. It’s interesting because there are a lot of people I don’t know, strangers, who have reached out to give me support. They’ve said, “I know that’s not the last that I’ll be seeing of you.” That felt good because sometimes it’s just good to get that encouragement from other people, especially at times when you really need it.
Based on the experience you’ve had, meeting great bakers, getting to meet Chef Paul Hollywood and Aisha Curry, it was a good one. So despite this situation, there are other baking competitions on TV. Do you think you’d ever go the reality competition route again?
[Laughs] That is such a tough question because while we were there, the competition was so intense. I truly gave everything I had. I think before I would consider being in that type of television environment again, I kind of want to see how the rest of this plays out. Like I said, I’m still hopeful that the episodes will get released and that people will actually get to watch them and want to watch them.
We wanted to help Lomas receive the chance she deserves to have her baking abilities shared since her chance to do so on the show was cut short. With that being said, check out her delightful desserts and baked goods on the next page, and be sure to check out Foodie in New York for insight on how to make these goodies for yourself.
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