A pastry chef or pâtissier is a station chef in a professional kitchen, skilled in the making of pastries, desserts, breads and other baked goods. They are employed in large hotels, bistros, restaurants, bakeries, and some cafés.
The pastry chef is a member of the classic brigade de cuisine in a professional kitchen and is the station chef of the pastry department. As with other station chefs, the pastry chef may have other chefs or assistants within their department. Bakers may also be members of the pastry department in bakeries and larger establishments such as hotels.
Pastry chefs create pies, candies, chocolates, cookies, cakes, ice cream, custards and breads. They not only create desserts, but also order ingredients, keep inventory, deal with wholesalers, develop new recipes and provide input on menu-planning. The job demands abundant testing and sampling of new creations, which can be both rewarding and delicious. Nearly every restaurant, cafe, market and grocery store chain sells sweets and there is no doubt that people will always have a sweet tooth.
Some responsibilites of a Pastry Chef:
There are a couple of options when thinking about becoming a pastry chef. You can either start your own business (by opening a store or working out of your home), or join the staff of a restaurant. Joining the staff of a high end restaurant or five star hotel will offer the highest pay and give you the exposure necessary to become famous in the culinary arts world.
Being a pastry chef involves attention to detail. Small changes in a recipe can make a big difference, so pastry chefs need to pay attention to what they are doing, even while performing routine tasks. You will also need to have artistic ability and creativity to produce pastries and desserts that look as good as they taste.
Pastry chefs need people skills in order to establish a successful business and reputation. Whether it's working with staff, other chefs, vendors or customers, developing people skills is imperative.
It goes without saying that a strong work ethic is necessary as well. A pastry job often requires long hours on your feet performing repetitive tasks, and can be more physically demanding than most people realize. It can be exhausting, as most pastry chefs start early in the morning - around three or four o'clock am! You will need to be strong physically, as there may be some lifting involved. Being mentally prepared is important too, as the day to day responsibilities can become overwhelming.
There are a number of degree programs that can train an aspiring chef to become a pastry chef. Degree programs cater to many different specialties. Some focus on cakes, others on other types of desserts, and some on baked goods, such as rolls and breads. These types of programs are generally for chefs who want to work at high-end restaurants and hotels. Pastry chefs who want to work more casually can often go to more simple culinary schools, or in some cases, train themselves.
If you are looking to become an executive pastry chef in an elite establishment, you probably want to take your education very seriously. Take some basic classes to make sure you have a basic understanding of the art, and that it is something you want to do for a career. After that, you should apply to all of the elite pastry chef schools around the country, or even some of the most famous ones around the world. These schools will allow you to perfect your skills, as well as give you the credentials that will allow you to get some of the top jobs in the industry. While it will be your skill and creativity that will make you a known commodity, it will be the degree from the elite school that gets your foot in the door. It may also allow you to get a pastry chef apprentice position with some of the top chefs in the world.
If you work at a high end establishment, the pastry kitchen or pastry section is usually slightly separate from the main kitchen. Pastry chefs often have other assistants to assist them.
There are many different types of bakeries and pastry shops to work from as well; mom-and-pop shops that do their own baking and pastry making, franchise bakeries and industrial bakeries. Many bakers and pastry chefs work in small retail bakeries or big wholesale suppliers of baked goods. They also work in department stores, at 'in house' bakeries in supermarkets, food store chains, hotels, restaurants, bistros, cruise ships, resorts and casinos.