If you’ve been tuning into Food Network’s second season of “Best Baker in America,” you’ve seen Lasheeda Perry. It’s hard to miss her megawatt smile.
In Atlanta, locals know and love her as the executive pastry chef at Four Seasons Atlanta and its hip Wes Anderson-inspired restaurant, Bar Margot. Likewise, Perry has embraced the city as her new home—even pulling inspiration from the hometown airline’s favorite in-flight cookie for her delicious Biscoff Cream Pie made with bourbon banana mousse, caramel and chocolate sauce.
The show premiered May 7, 2018, and Where caught up with Perry after the nail-biting first episode. Spoiler alert: this cheerful chef is still in the game, and we’re cheering for her to take the cake.
Can you give us a quick recap of the first episode?
It started out with the skills challenge, which was to make petit fours. Overall, everyone did very well. There were a couple mishaps, and as far as my end, the judges wanted more filling in the center. I definitely took that feedback and if I ever make them again, I will definitely make sure to put more of the jam filling in the center.
As far as the second challenge, it was to make a mind-bending cake. That for me, I was excited to do it. My inspiration was that of my niece and nephews who happen to be triplets, and me being a twin myself, it hit home to do something fun with it, so I made little monsters that were stacked on top of each other. Unfortunately, I was at the bottom two, but I didn’t get eliminated.
You’re known for being sugary sweet and smiley—your Instagram name is even @misschefsmileypants. Do you have a competitive streak that comes out on the show, or what motivates you to “be the best”?
Those around me—family, friends, colleagues. I’ve had to stand on a lot of shoulders to get where I am today, and that’s my motivation. Even as I’m competing on the show, you’ll still see me smiling. I’m very calm under pressure. My motto is to always be having fun—even when it’s stressful and cameras are in your face the entire time—just having fun, smiling, and having fun.
You represent Atlanta on the show among a handful of other world-class bakers. As a local, what is something you love about the city that you would like visitors to know?
There is just so much to do here in Atlanta. I’ve been here about a year and a half now, and every time I go out, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t know about this!” whether it’s a park or a restaurant, there’s just so much to do. It’s a hub for the South, and I love the fact that there are so many neighboring states that you can drive to within a couple hours. I love it. I’m happy to be here.
The winner earns a hefty cash prize of $25,000. What would you splurge on with some extra cash?
I don’t know if splurge would be the right word. [Laughter] Paying off student loans, I would love to go see my niece in Ireland and I would put the rest into savings—save it for a rainy day.
I’ve tasted your delicious Biscoff Cream Pie, and I’ve seen some of your other creative confections on Instagram. What are you most excited to bake or make this summer?
We just finished the spring menu [at Four Seasons Atlanta] a few weeks ago, and I’ll have to say the Pink Velvet has been on my mind lately because I love strawberry, and rhubarb is in season as well, and it definitely lends itself well to summer flavors. For the summer menu, I’m excited to make a nice, cool frozen dessert—nostalgic, but definitely with a twist. I’ll be working on that for sure.
How do you like to cool down in the summer?
A nice cocktail. As long as it’s fruity, I’m very adventurous. I love the drinks that Bar Margot comes up with, and any time [the mixologists] are back there playing, I’m like, “Let me just try a little sip.” It’s cool because it’s a collaboration. Although it’s mixology, it’s still about flavors, it’s still about keeping it seasonal. I always look forward to them picking my brain or vice versa. That’s a great way to cool off for me, and I love boozy desserts so it’s really good.
What is your favorite thing about working at the Four Seasons Atlanta?
There’s a lot, to be honest. We just have fun—that’s what it really comes down to. We do work hard, and we’re very focused but we take time throughout the day to just share a couple laughs, or share our vacation plans. It’s always finding that time to not think about food for a couple minutes, and to check in on each other. I really, really love that.
My team and I have a lot of creative flexibility, which is huge to me as well.
Congratulations on being named the 182nd Distinguished Visiting Chef at your alma mater, Johnson and Wales University. Considering all of your recent accolades, what are you most proud of?
That’s a tough question. So much has happened since I’ve been here in Atlanta, and I would have to say that a lot definitely goes back to Johnson and Wales. That was huge for me because it’s one thing to be recognized by your peers and those who work with you every day, but to be recognized by those who actually taught you and then they want you to come back and show them what you’ve learned in the last 10 to 14 years? That was huge. It was emotional, and it was a lot. I’m just honored. I’m thrilled, and I’m still trying to come down from it.
One more tough question: Who, in your opinion, is the best baker in America?
That’s an easy question! It’s me. [Laughter] You have to own it. No matter what, you have to own it.
Tune in to “Best Baker in America” on Food Network this Monday at 9 pm ET to see what Perry has up her sleeve next.