A local Ahwatukee pastry chef has worked her way to the top and is now competing for $10,000 in a Food Network holiday baking challenge. 

Chris D'Angeli, a Long Island native who moved to Ahwatukee five years ago with her husband, Jeremy Rosser, said she opened SLiCE Cake Designs a little over a year ago. D'Angeli said her business is the product of years of being a professional pastry chef. She received a boost with the prize money she won on the Food Network Challenge: Rice Cereal Bridges 2 in August 2009.

On Nov. 28, a new Food Network Challenge, Holiday Window Display, will air and feature D'Angeli using her pastry skills to create an edible holiday window display, similar to something you would see in stores such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's, according to D'Angeli.

D'Angeli's resume includes graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in New York, interning at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont, re-opening The Russian Tea Room in New York City and working at various Ritz-Carlton hotels.

"I always cooked alongside my dad when I was young," D'Angeli said.

After working for a local, family-owned bakery, D'Angeli said she knew she wanted to get a degree in pastry and baking and decided to go to The Culinary Institute of America. She graduated in 1996 with an associate's degree in pastry and baking.

In 1996, D'Angeli started working at Ponte Vedera Inn & Club in Ponte Vedera, Fla., as a pastry chef.

"That was a real experience," she said.

In 1998, D'Angeli moved back to Long Island to work at Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square. She said at the hotel she learned how to make various kinds of Latvian pastries.

A year later, D'Angeli said she helped re-open The Russian Tea Room in New York City and stayed there for a year and a half.

"It was grand," D'Angeli said.

In 2000 D'Angeli said she moved to New Orleans, La., to help open a Ritz-Carlton hotel. There, she learned to make beignets and also learned "a high level of customer service," D'Angeli said.

During a stint at another Ritz-Carlton property in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, she said she learned how to make Caribbean food, and came to appreciate where she had come from, and where she was at in her career.

"I worked really hard," D'Angeli said.

From there, it was on to Boston, a city she considers a true melting pot of cultures and food, and then to Houston to work at Hotel ICON for Jean Georges, who also owns G & J Steakhouse in Scottsdale. In Texas, she discovered produce she had never seen before.

"It was an eye-opening experience," D'Angeli said.

In 2005 D'Angeli and her husband moved to Ahwatukee after she was offered a job at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Phoenix and then opened her own business.

D'Angeli's shop on North 7th Street is open by appointment only to customers wanting custom wedding, anniversary, birthday, and celebration cakes, as well as cupcakes, and other desserts. Every Sunday, she sets up shop at the Ahwatukee farmer's market, 4700 E. Warner Road, and sells pies, brownies, cookies, breakfast pastries and seasonal items.

D'Angeli said the farmer's market is a nice break from her usual busy, cake-baking schedule.

"It's really nice to get a chance to stretch my pastry muscle," D'Angeli said.

As for the upcoming Food Network show, D'Angeli can't divulge much.

Shortly after she accepted the offer to be on the show, she submitted a sketch of what she wanted to make in the competition.

The day of the taping, D'Angeli said she and the other contestants had five hours to get things ready in the Food Network studio, in which they are allowed to work with items that they pre-made, including pre-baked gingerbread, cake, and also back-up chocolate, as well as items provided for them. After their five hours were up they had two hours to build their displays in an actual store-front window.

D'Angeli said she had to transport everything she had created across town, and get everything placed and ready without the amenities of a kitchen, all while coping with the weather.

"You have to deal with the elements," D'Angeli said.

The Food Network Challenge: Holiday Window Display airs Sunday, Nov. 28, on the Food Network channel.

To learn more about D'Angeli, check out her website at SliceCakeDesigns.com, or call (480) 522-9520 to set up an appointment at the SLiCE shop.

Chelsea Brown is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.


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