"Pie is my thing. I make a lot of pie, and I make really good pie," says Baton Rouge native Vallery Lomas.
But whipping up a pie in your own kitchen and baking an unfamiliar one in a tent with the clock ticking is something different entirely, the 32-year-old New York lawyer learned.
Viewers will see Lomas, also a food blogger and Instagrammer, and nine other contestants compete in ABC's third season of "The Great American Baking Show" starting Thursday night. The show is based on the British franchise, "The Great British Bake-off," and with its six episodes airing as part of ABC's 25 Days of Christmas lineup, the competition takes on a holiday theme, with the premiere letting them eat cake and the second episode serving up morning treats.
Here, Lomas answers five questions about the show and her life as a foodie.
Where was the show filmed?
The show was shot near London. The crew, everyone on set, they were all the ones that produce the British show and even the production company, it’s their UK counterpart that produces the British show. We were using that same set (as "The Great British Bake-off"). We took a three-day break once so that they could film the British Christmas special.
How was the competition area set up, and how was the weather (sometimes a critical factor in successful baking)?
We shot in the fall, and I was surprised how cold it was. We were actually in a tent. I thought from watching television that it wasn't a real tent, but it was a real tent. If it was cold outside, it was going to be cold in the tent. But there were a lot of lights, and it never got so cold that they had to bring in heaters, but if it was humid or raining outside, that absolutely affected the stuff that we were baking. It definitely made our task as bakers a lot harder. As far as adapting to conditions, this was a competition of amateurs. You know, we’re not professionals, so when you know how to do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to do it when it’s really humid outside, so you have to make up for that. So those conditions definitely tripped me up a few times. When you’re in your kitchen baking something and you’ve made this thing for like years and you know how to do it, and you know how long it takes and at what temperature, it’s something that you kind of rely on. I had to eventually figure out how to rely on instinct instead of this knowledge that I had that wasn’t necessarily applicable to the conditions, to the ingredients. There was definitely a learning curve. It’s nothing like being at home.
What surprised you most about competing on your first TV show?
In a sense, it was a game, it was a contest and that’s something I didn’t understand before. And I watched the show before. (It was) do the best within the parameters that you’re given. So you have two hours, and you’re going to make a specific pie with a specific crust and a specific filling and topping. So it’s something I’ve never made before, I don’t even know if I’ve tasted before. It's baking outside of your comfort zone.
How did you get into baking?
Both of my grandmothers, they’re quite elderly now — one is 93 and one is 100 — they don’t really bake anymore. But during the holidays, they and Mom would always have us bake, like my aunt's rolls or my grandmother’s Million Dollar Cake. I didn’t really get into baking until my third year of law school, and I started doing it as a distraction, because there was just a lot going on in my life and baking and blogging was a way for me to have a creative outlet to express myself that was so far removed from what I was doing. That’s when I really got into exploring new recipes, collecting cookbooks, baking stuff that I had never heard of or eaten before.
How would you describe your experience on the show?
Intense and difficult. I’m a fairly confident baker and being put in a challenge where there’s a clock running, and there are cameras in your face, and you have a microphone on and there are producers who are watching to see if you mess up, so they can call everyone over to get it from every angle (she laughs). Being under that lens, it was very intense. Both judges (food personalities Paul Hollywood and Johnny Iuzzini) were really great about giving us feedback. Everyone was extremely friendly. It was a very warm, friendly, welcoming place.
'The Great American Baking Show'
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays
CHANNELS: WBRZ, Channel 2 (cable Channel 5 in Baton Rouge and cable Channel 17 in Lafayette), KATC, Channel 3 (cable Channel 5 in Lafayette) and WGNO, Channel 26 (cable Channel 11 in New Orleans)
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