The PreGel International Training Centers were harvested by a genuine passion for educating the world about artisanal desserts. Our highly skilled and trained artisanal chefs share a strong commitment for culinary quality. We invite you to PreGel’s International Training Centers to learn from the best in intimate class settings. We are confident that our devoted chefs are the perfect resources for relaying all necessary aspects toward cultivating a successful career in this advancing field.
Corporate Pastry Chef, PreGel International Training Centers —Dallas, Texas
Award-winning chef Sean Pera comes to PreGel from Herons at the Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary, NC. Sean is the son of an Italian father who owned vineyards and a café, and a Hungarian mother that introduced him to traditional dishes and sweets from her native country.
Based on his childhood, the pastry aficionado confirms that food was a natural part of his life. And his journey toward becoming a pastry chef, which Sean describes as "unforgettable", began at a very young age. "I would say around the age of 11 I became very serious about becoming a chef, and from then on I really devoted myself to learning as much as I could about food," Sean recalls. The budding chef devoutly watched televised international pastry competitions, mesmerized and inspired by the phenomenal works of edible art that were created. "I knew right then and there I wanted to know how to do the same," Sean shares.
Sean is the winner of the 2013 4th Annual StarChef.com International Pastry Competition and proved to be a strong contender on Season 3 of the Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition.
As PreGel Corporate Pastry Chef and instructor of the International Training Centers – Dallas, TX location, Sean actively works with customers in all food industry segments to find the perfect solutions for their business.
Sean’s favorite dessert is French macarons and his favorite savory dish is a sweet pea risotto with goat cheese, as well as peppered bacon.
Sean is ServSafe Certified.
International Training Centers Coordinator—North & South America, and Australia
Born in the Republic of Panama, Alicia is a veteran traveler. She was exposed to the amazing opportunities of the culinary industry while in high school, having been accidentally placed in a culinary class her sophomore year. Alicia’s love for the science behind cooking led her to pursue further education at Johnson & Wales University where she received an Associate of Arts & Science in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Arts & Science in Baking and Pastry Arts.
As the International Training Centers Coordinator, Alicia manages the administrative functions of many Training Center locations. Preceding her current role, Alicia served as an ITC assistant pastry chef and instructor and U.S. ITC coordinator. Prior to joining PreGel, Alicia worked at resorts such as Sea Island, GA, and Sun Valley, ID. Outside of creating mouthwatering delicacies such as this, Alicia can be found painting or gardening in her spare time.
Alicia is ServSafe Certified.
Corporate Pastry Chef & International Training Centers Manager—North America & Australia
As the Corporate Pastry Chef & International Training Centers Manager, Mike Downing brings an impressive level of knowledge and skill set to PreGel America, founded in his previous work at various patisseries in Las Vegas, NV, including those within the Bellagio and Aria Resort & Casino.
Mike earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing from Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, where he grew up, and later completed formal pastry training at the Culinary Institute LeNotre in Houston, TX. As Corporate Pastry Chef & International Training Centers Manager, Mike manages the International Training Centers of the United States, Canada, and Australia. He keeps himself busy juggling a wide array of duties including recipe development, culinary innovation, technical advisory, and traveling to tradeshows to promote PreGel’s innovative and easy to use products.
When Mike is not living his passion for pastries or creating amazing gelato recipes like this, he enjoys playing golf, reading, and spending time with his family.
Pastry Chef & Instructor - PreGel International Training Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
With a genuine passion for culinary arts, Victoria brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role as pastry chef & instructor at PreGel America. A native of Uruguay, South America, Victoria honed her culinary skills in the United States, having worked her way up through the ranks of busy restaurant kitchens to achieve pastry chef status before earning certification in culinary management. The enthusiastic chef also boasts experience at high-end, three-star restaurants including Union Square Cafe and Prime Grill in New York City, and a 5-year tenure as a pastry chef instructor at the famed Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).
At PreGel America, Victoria informs and educates students of the International Training Center on how to use PreGel products to produce authentic Italian gelato and a wide variety of pastries. Victoria describes her current endeavor of working at PreGel as "the cherry on top of a cake."
During her spare time, the active culinary artist enjoys performing the captivating dance forms of Salsa and Tango, as well as playing tennis, volleyball, swimming, and running.
Victoria is ServSafe certified.
Pastry Chef, PreGel International Training Centers – Charlotte, North Carolina
“My career is my passion and my passion is my hobby, so you can always find me in the kitchen creating,” says Kristen Battaglia, Pastry Chef, PreGel International Training Centers – Charlotte, who realized her growing passion for pastries while helping to prepare the dinners her large Italian family would gather for every Sunday.
Though the native of Brooklyn, New York began her college career with a focus in architecture, after being introduced to the Hospitality Department at New York City College and Technology, Kristen realized her passion for pastries could be turned into a career. And subsequent to earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management, she never looked back.
“I went wherever my career led me,” says the enthusiastic pastry chef. And with this philosophy, Kristen traveled abroad to France for a few months, where she broadened her horizons in the field of pastry, realizing another level of respect for the culinary art. Following her return to the U.S., Kristen learned the art of sugar at L’Auberge Lake Charles and the craft of chocolate at Frederic Loraschi Chocolate in Pennsylvania. Later, after moving back home to NYC, she refined her pastry knowledge and skills while working at The Pierre—a 5-star/5-diamond hotel—and Michelin Starred restaurant The River Café.
An eager competitor, Kristen placed first in the first Junior U.S. Pastry competition and honorable mention in the U.S. Pastry Competition two years later. She thoroughly enjoys the exhilaration of competing, stating, “The feeling you get when you compete is unexplainable, and I would do it again and again.”
Nevertheless, trying new foods with loved ones and doing her best to work off those culinary experiments through exercise are also activities Kristen delights in during her free-time. As Pastry Chef at PreGel America, the energetic chef tests and creates innovative recipes, and shows potential and current business partners how to create a variety of gelato, sorbetto, and pastry using PreGel products.
In her current role, Kristen exercises her passion for pastry and teaching others, while finding pleasure in another PreGel career perk … occasionally indulging in gelato made with her favorite flavors, PreGel Gianduiotto Rock Traditional Paste, PreGel Butter Pecan Super Sprint, and PreGel Pistachio Pure Anatolia Traditional Paste.
Catie Van Slyke
Pastry Chef - PreGel International Training Center- Chicago, Illinois
Being able to create edible art is what makes pastry so fascinating to Catie Van Slyke, Pastry Chef at PreGel America - Chicago Training Center. She grew up in a military household, so having traditions like baking bread with her Italian grandfather always allowed her to feel at home. This early immersion into cooking lead Catie to attend Johnson & Wales University Charlotte, where she studied Pastry Arts and Food Service Management.
Following school, Catie found herself in France for a few months studying at Ecole Nationale Superieure de Patisserie, DUCASSE Education Pastry School before returning to Charlotte to work in a variety of local bakeries and restaurants. Moving to The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, she produced life sized gingerbread houses, wedding cakes, and banquet desserts. It was at The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte that Catie found a love for teaching the art of pastry in her Cocoa Lab classes.
Being a pastry chef at PreGel America brings all the things Catie loves together – teaching, research and development science, and pastry arts. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with her dog, Ginger, and exploring the ever changing food scenes of the area.
Catie is ServSafe Certified.
Pastry Chef - PreGel International Training Center- Los Angeles, California
“I was never that cook who grew up baking at home. I didn’t choose Pastry, it chose me.” – Ashley Guzman
Ashley’s journey to her role as PreGel America’s Los Angeles Pastry Chef has been everything but conventional, but it feels to her like this was the part she was made to play. She was born, raised, and educated (formally and informally) in Southern California just a few miles down the 57 freeway from the LA International Training Center. Originally an English/Liberal Arts major, she changed direction in college after traveling through Europe, and she finished her Bachelors program in Culinary Management. Initially, Ashley had planned on a career in food writing. However, while studying, she took the advice of the Director of Pastry at The International Culinary Institute of America in Santa Ana and snagged a pastry line cook job at the Michelin starred Osteria Mozza under James Beard recipients Dahlia Narvaez and Nancy Silverton. She never looked back.
Hungry to learn everything about pastry she could, she went on to work under the most notable chefs and pastry chefs in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ashley fell in love with the two extremes of pastry – the rigorous but precise kitchen life balanced with the ballet and beauty of plated pastry service. In her own words, “I was no longer a square peg trying to fit into a circle. My life made sense.”
She began to develop a sense of her own style as Pastry Chef of Playground and Playground 2.0 and came into her own at The North Left (both in Santa Ana) where she was voted “Pastry Chef of The Year” by industry professionals at the Orange County Golden Foodies Award. She went on to produce many successful pop-up events, including Sweets and Beats – a 90’s hip hop themed plated dessert bar.
Ashley has also worked alongside non-food industry creatives as a contributor for Saute Magazine, Foodbeast, and Paleohacks. Prior to joining PreGel America she was the food stylist on several national food campaigns as well as the popular YouTube Channel Cooking with Marshmello featuring DJ Marshmello and a myriad of celebrity guests ranging from Chef Cat Cora to LA Laker Derek Fisher and Pop Icon Paula Abdul.
Ashley is very excited to bring her experience, knowledge and dad jokes to the PreGel International Training Center in LA to educate students on PreGel products and how to use them to develop their own styles in Italian gelato, sorbetto and pastries.
In her spare time you can find her at the beach with her husband and their dog Ziggy Smalls. She also enjoys losing at Fantasy Football, geeking out over video and board games, and dancing and tasting her way through life. Her life goals are to be a little bit more like her mom every day and to find the perfect taco.
Ashley is ServSafe Certified.