From Lawyer to National Baking Champion: How Traveling Took Vallery Lomas’ Career to New Heights

17. Dec. 2021

When baking entrepreneur and author Vallery Lomas started her cooking blog in 2009, she had no idea how wildly successful it would be. What started as a way for her to express her creativity became the vehicle that led to her getting press coverage everywhere from The New York Times to CNN. 

Vallery’s food blog earned her a devoted following, and in 2017, she was invited to compete on The Great American Baking Show, the US spinoff of the popular British series – and she won! However, the show got pulled off the air during her winning season due to misconduct from one of the show’s judges. Despite that hiccup, Vallery has still gone on to become one of the most popular baking personalities on Instagram and beyond.

In fact, earlier this year, Vallery released her first cookbook, Life is What You Bake It. The book has over 100 tasty recipes, inspired in parts by her native Louisiana roots, her experiences traveling abroad and living in Paris, and the culinary diversity of New York City, where she’s based. She now has over 70,000 followers – and counting! – on her Instagram @FoodieInNewYork.

In addition to baking, Vallery is deeply passionate about traveling. She’s been all around the world, and recently traveled to Guatemala with Remote Year on a Retreat. The connections she made on the program are alive and well, with her fellow participants coming to support her during her book launch in New York in September.

Vallery recently sat down with us to discuss her incredible journey and how traveling has inspired her both personally and professionally.

What made you decide to join your first Remote Year program?

I’d never been to Guatemala before, and when I heard about the program, it looked like a great way to get back out there after the pandemic kept us inside for so long. At that point most of Europe was closed off to Americans, and there were limited places to travel to. 

I was intrigued by the opportunity to explore a country where I don’t speak the language, and going with Remote Year gave me a chance to travel with a community I could connect with on a deeper level. And since it was a 1-week Retreat, it fit my schedule really well! 

What were your favorite parts about your Retreat with Remote Year?

It’s a treat to travel with adventurous people and a community that puts together activities and programming for you. It was also really nice to have people in their 30s there, since I was 35. I felt like going with a group of people who are my people, like – crazy travelers who can't stop traveling, because we relate to one another in a special way.

I really loved having breakfast and dinner together – it kind of felt like summer camp, but in a good way. One of my favorite memories was the last full day in Guatemala when we were hanging out by Lake Atitlán near the volcano. We also got to learn and talk with a shaman during the Retreat!

Did you make any special connections during your Retreat?

Yeah definitely! We actually have a group chat that’s still going strong. A lot of us are trying to go on another program together. I invited some people to my book launch party [for Life is What You Bake It] in September and got to see them again! I’ve also gotten to meet up with people while they were in town in New York, where I’m based.

Being an adult and having that opportunity again to make new friends and connect with people is really special. I’m happy I had the chance to meet everyone.

Guatemala is a major foodie destination – what meals really stood out to you as a professional foodie?

The professional chef we had on the Retreat made this hummus that was so, so, SO good. He also made some vegan dishes that I loved even though I’m not a vegan. We sampled these incredible tortillas that were made with different types of corn, and I got to make them myself by hand which was really cool. There was good food everywhere on the trip – it’s hard to pick just one!

What do you enjoy about group travel?

When I was younger, I studied abroad and later on worked as a language assistant in France. Studying abroad was wonderful because there was a built-in community there, but there wasn’t as much of a community when I was a language assistant. 

As a language assistant, I loved the freedom that I had working part-time and I got to travel everywhere on the weekends, but I missed the structure and community that exists when you’re doing something like studying abroad. It made me appreciate traveling with a group of like-minded people who you’re close to and can connect with. 

When did you first become passionate about food and traveling?

The first international place I ever traveled to was to Guadeloupe, a French Caribbean island, when I was 15 years old. I was welcomed with a Creole feast of colombo (aka goat stew) and boiled plantains, and it was absolutely delicious. It was the first time I had ever been immersed in a culture that was completely different from my own, and it’s the kind of thing that can only really happen once in your life. 

That trip ignited my passion for travel, international cuisine, and delectable pastries. It was also the reason I became fluent in French!

How has traveling inspired you professionally?

Traveling around Europe and Africa inspired me to teach myself how to make authentic French macarons when I moved back to the States. I started selling them and they ended up doing really well – almost too well! I ended up starting a macaron business on the side. 

By then, I had already gotten a job as a full-time lawyer, and I was working weekends to keep up with demand. I ended up walking away from the macaron business to focus on law, but I still kept up with my food blog on the side. 

Once I joined Instagram five years ago, everything really took off! I left my job in 2018 and started working full-time as a foodie online. Now I have an online business and just released my cookbook Life is What You Bake It! 

Can you tell us a little more about Life is What You Bake It?

Life is What You Bake It is a labor of love that is filled with recipes from all aspects of my life – heirloom family recipes from Louisiana, recipes I made while on The Great American Baking Show, and recipes inspired by my time spent in Paris and abroad. 

It's also a story of my personal growth and what it means to be brave and pursue your passion in life, and having the wherewithal to give yourself a chance. That’s what I wanted to do – give myself a chance. I did, and that’s what led me to where I am today.

Your journey is so fascinating! What’s next on the horizon for you?

Lots of events! I’ll be on Good Morning America on December 18 making cookies for the holidays. On December 1, I have a pop-up event I’m doing at a Brooklyn bookstore where I’ll be signing my book. And on December 11, I’ll be having a holiday cookie pop-up event. 

In terms of Remote Year, I’m hoping that come spring I can do a 1-month Trip to Cape Town, Valencia, or Lisbon. Once I have my business structure and support taken care of, I can focus on taking a month to join another program.

Visit Vallery’s website to get your copy of Life is What You Bake It, follow her on Instagram at @FoodieInNewYork, and sign up for her newsletter to keep up to date with her events and appearances! 

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