Atlanta’s ‘Sweet Genius’ could be the ‘Best Baker in America’

Six years ago, Lasheeda Perry made her debut on Food Network.

She was rising through the ranks of the culinary teams at several Four Seasons properties when she won season two of “Sweet Genius.”

Now having recently been appointed executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Atlanta, Perry is making her second Food Network appearance on season two of  “Best Baker in America” which premieres today at 9 p.m. on Food Network.

“This experience now is different,” said Perry.  “I am more mature personally and professionally so it was important to really share my story and hopefully inspire other young female pastry chefs.”

Perry admits she wasn’t always on the pastry chef path. One of eight children (including a twin sister), her early career goal was to be a lawyer primarily because she really wanted to win an argument. It turned out she was more practical than pugnacious.

“In high school during my junior year I realized it was hard getting into law school and it required a lot of money. Students in the culinary program at my high school were getting scholarships to the top programs in the state,” she said.

One of her teachers became her first mentor in the field showing her basic culinary skills. Perry ended up earning a full scholarship to Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

In April, Perry returned to her alma mater as the 182nd Distinguished Visiting Chef. Known as much for her baking as for her cheery smile, Perry beamed while demonstrating her coconut tres leches cake with ube (purple yam) ice cream and a macadamia crunch tuile to students and staff.

She feels part of her duty is to inspire others which she does as much with her successes as her missteps. Perry has always been a dessert lover -- she may be stuffed from a meal but will still make room for dessert -- but initially she wasn’t sure of the direction she wanted to take in her career. The hotel industry offered her the opportunity to try a lot of different things.

As Perry faced off on “Best Baker in America” against eight other pastry chefs from around the country for bragging rights and a $25K cash prize, she braced for the unexpected while incorporating her own special style of nostalgic desserts with a twist -- a style that has lately been influenced by her time spent in the South.

One of her now signature desserts came to her when she was en route to Atlanta to begin her new position. Perry was eating Biscoff cookies on her flight when she decided her first dessert in Atlanta would have to incorporate those cookies.

Her Biscoff Pie, now on the menu at Bar Margot, blends banana, Biscoff cookies and bourbon into a smooth twist on banana cream pie. “There is something about being in the South,” she said. “Every opportunity I get to add bourbon, I take it.”