A pastry chef is someone who is schooled and skilled in the making of pastries, desserts, breads and other baked goods. Some pastry items may include cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pies, tortes and ice cream. Pastry chefs are employed in large hotels, bistros, restaurants, bakeries, and some cafés.
A pastry chef is typically found 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 larger establishments. Some pastry chefs prefer to have their own small business, running a bakery or dessert shop.
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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.
Being a pastry chef allows you to experiment with recipes, indulge your creativity and master the fine art of baking. However, even if you're a natural in the kitchen, you still must earn a pastry arts associate degree to be competitive in the industry. Some two- and four-year colleges offer pastry arts programs, as do specialty culinary arts training schools.
Sarah Allman has been baking in her own kitchen, bakeries and high-end restaurants for the past 12 years. A native of Peterborough, Ontario (an hour outside of Toronto), she developed her passion for baking at a young age, unknowingly apprenticing with her great grandmother at the age of eight.
I no longer work in a pastry kitchen full time, but this is an accurate representation of my day when I worked production at a fine dining restaurant. I didn’t feel like changing all of this to the past tense, so just go with it! If you’re considering becoming a pastry chef, chef or cook and you have never cooked professionally, you should probably give this a read.
Once again I’m thrilled to have Chef Jennifer Field, a graduate of Orlando Culinary Academy, write about the life of a baking & pastry chef. I asked Jenni to give my readers a glimpse of what one of her days look like working as the pastry chef at The Ravenous Pig in Winterpark, Florida. As you will see, her day is busy….really busy.
There is no one type of pastry chef. For this I am grateful. Not only does it give diners zillions of delicious opportunities to be surprised, educated, and challenged; but our differences provide us limitless platforms for divergence, growth, inspiration, comparison, and conversation.
Confession: As we worked late into the night bringing this story to life, there sat between us a small plate towering with Publican-made pastries. Inspiration, we assured one another, while we nibbled and typed, interrupting the other’s work here and there with an mmmm we could not restrain. Subtle in their decadence and with a simple, homespun elegance, the Publican’s pastries are often more than the closing taste of a meal.
I get a lot of e-mails asking about my experience with going to a professional pastry school, how to pick a good pastry school, and whether or not to go to pastry school. Excellent questions, all of them. I finally decided to gather all my thoughts together and put them down on this page. I hope you find this helpful and perhaps you’ll learn a little bit more about where this pastry girl came from!
My inbox is overflowing like a molten lava cake. Turns out, some of you want to be pastry chefs and are looking for advice on the how to go about it. Well, thanks for thinking of me, I’m happy to help. I’ll tell you what I wish someone told me when I first started because at the time, I had no idea how I was going to do it, and the thought of it left me bewildered. It was like trying to swim across the ocean.
Are you a creative type who also likes to know the hows and whys of everything you do? Do you enjoy making desserts that taste wonderful and are beautiful, too? If so, you might enjoy being a pastry artist.