Meet Chef Lucy Ayerbe - our Academy Director. Chef Ayerbe is an alumna of the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC where she earned the Blue Ribbon award upon graduation. She interned with renowned cake artist Colette Peters in Manhattan while continuing to pursue her career in the Pastry Arts. Her pastry style is focused – artistic and elegant desserts with a balanced focus in flavors and textures.

She has been an avid competitor on Food Network’s Chocolate Challenge, The Food Channel, ACF culinary competitions, and the National Bread & Pastry Championship amongst others. As an Executive Pastry Chef she worked with Marriott Hotels for 20 years, heading the pastry/bakery department in their largest property world-wide. Early on her Marriott career she was awarded Marriott’s Rising Star for her achievements. 

In 2015 she was named one of the Top Ten Cake Artists of North America by Dessert Professional magazine. Chef Ayerbe owns and runs her own company - Sofelle Cake Artistry - catering custom wedding cakes. She is passionate about teaching and mentoring new pastry artists. As a Chef Instructor at the Notter School of Pastry Arts she taught aspiring pastry students in all areas of pastry arts. Chef Ayerbe is now proud to be part of the faculty at the new Valencia/UCF downtown campus teaching in the Pastry & Baking Management program. 

Aside from being passionate about her art she is a devoted mom, little bit crazy cat lady, and can’t say no to a good diet coke!



Mercedes Strachwsky is a self-taught cake designer. She was born in Popayan, Colombia and came to reside in the United States in 1980. She has been married to architect and pastry chef Alex Strachwsky for 37 years and has three children: Andy, David and Michael.

As a child Mercedes was always fascinated with art. Her love of nature inspired her to become very creative as a young girl. She discovered cakes when she ordered a birthday cake for her son and was not happy with the results. She began a hobby in cakes and it continued to grow.

As she continued creating new ideas for cakes her passion grew into teaching. Mercedes is great with people and loves sharing her gift with others. She enjoys teaching locally and internationally, sharing her passion with many. In addition, Mercedes travels the world demonstrating her Satin Ice rolled fondant techniques.
Learn more about Mercedes and her family business at Bake Me A Cake.

Chef Ed Gee, was born in Connecticut but moved to New York at a very young age, and then migrated to Florida in the mid-80s. He attended Schenectady Community College where he earned his culinary degree and went on to the prestigious college of Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island to obtain his degree in Pastry Arts. Of all the things studied there, his favorite was cake decorating. Inquisitive and always driven, it wasn’t long before he found himself as the teacher’s assistant!

Chef Gee went on to work in numerous hotels including Hilton, Lake Buena Vista Palace, Swan & Dolphin, Royal Pacific at Universal Studios, and Waldorf Astoria to name but a few. He has extensive knowledge in not only cake decorating but chocolate work. He is the author of the book “Bake: beautiful recipes from around the world” which was a true labor of love and passion for the baking arts. His book includes over 100 recipes of his own. His love for the pastry arts led him to want to share and teach his skills. He did exactly that teaching at the Notter School of Pastry Arts, and now here at the Confectionary Academy. When not in the kitchen experimenting and coming up with new techniques, you can find him probably saltwater fishing or thrifting in New Smyrna Beach.



Lina Maayah is a self-taught cake designer and sugar artist, passionately creating cakes for 17 years, specializing in unique luxurious and bespoken cakes. She loves to approach traditional views from a new perspective and create her own version using her flair for creativity.

Her love of art, people, and design led her to become an entrepreneur and establish her own business, Lina’s Cakes by Design, in 2012. She is a firm believer in learning and the idea that a true legacy is left behind by sharing knowledge and experiences with others. Her patient and caring style of teaching is evident by her warm personality and innate desire to help others.
To view some of her beautiful work visit her website Lina’s Cakes.
Lina is mom to three amazing children she is proud to have raised on her own. She appreciates painting, Baroque architecture and one day hopes to travel to her dream country, Italy.


Pastry Artist Renata Galatti 

Renata is a pastry artist focused on decorated cookies and cupcakes.  She is a graduate from the Baking and Pastry Program at Valencia College, Orlando, FL.

Her passion for this field started due to her desire to put unique birthday parties together for her kids when she still lived in Brazil, her home country. However, everything was either too expensive or not to her standards.   She decided to learn more about the making and decorating of cakes, cookies and cupcakes. The parties were definitely a success and, as a consequence, friends and family started requesting her services. This encouraged her to turn her hobby into a profession. She opened a small home-based business in 2013 that thrived. 

In 2017, she decided to move to the USA with her family to study Baking and Pastry and improve her professional skills.

Nowadays, she is the owner of Vanilla Sugar, a company whose main value is to provide its clients with the prettiest products, made with the utmost quality and passion. For more information and details, you can visit her website or Instagram page @vanilla_sugar_by_regalatti.



Pat Ashley Howard is a nationally acclaimed confectionery artist best known for her award winning gingerbread houses. In 2006 she created her first ever gingerbread house and won the annual National Gingerbread House Competition which features hundreds of diehard gingerbread artists yearly. 

The following year she won the grand prize again and a third time in 2011. Since then Pat Ashley has made numerous appearances on the Food Network, The Travel Channel and TLC to name a few. Her creations have been featured many times on Good Morning America, on display for Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and in Cake Masters magazine.

Gingerbread houses, cookie and cupcake decorating are her other passions and she loves sharing and teaching the craft!  But when she’s not baking most likely you’ll find her engaging in her other love …f folding colorful scrapbook paper into boxes and bags creating party favors for friends and family!  

Her favorite quote - When your heart is in your dreams no request is too extreme. - Jiminy Cricket