dcsimg

Culinary Careers: Spotlight on Pastry Chefs

Job Profile

Do you have a knack for creating fabulous confections, perfectly flaky pie crusts, melt-in-your-mouth cakes, and other to-die-for desserts? Are you constantly challenging yourself to come up with tantalizing and unexpected combinations of sweet, sour, and savory flavors? Does the idea of creating tasty sweets and treats for crowds of appreciative diners sound like something you'd like to devote yourself to full-time? If so, a career as a pastry chef just might be the right professional path for you.

Baking Pastry Arts

Unlike traditional chefs who often are given open-ended responsibility over everything that goes on in a restaurant's kitchen, pastry chefs specialize in a narrow niche area of the field, albeit one that can be surprisingly complex and demanding. In fact, the average career arc, job responsibilities, and work schedule of a typical pastry chef diverge in many ways from those of other types of chefs and kitchen personnel. Read on to learn more about the educational requirements, duties, and opportunities for pastry chefs--and to get a handle on whether this kind of role is right for you.

What Does a Pastry Chef Do?

For pastry chefs, the workday's shape and schedule is likely to be determined by the type of establishment where one is employed. For example, the responsibilities and work schedule for a pastry chef at a large institution such as a workplace cafeteria are likely to differ significantly from those of a pastry chef who owns and operates a small boutique bakery or patisserie.

In the typical restaurant setting, pastry chefs' workdays often begin very early, sometimes as early as 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. In the early morning hours, the pastry chef prepares the desserts and breads that will be available on the day's menu. Depending on the size of the establishment, a pastry chef works either alone or with a small team of assistants.

Although the early morning hours that the position requires can be difficult, a pastry chef often completes the day's dessert preparation by early afternoon. In some restaurants, pastry chefs remain on duty to assist in the service of lunch and dinner, but service duties are often assigned to other kitchen personnel, allowing the pastry chef to attend to other responsibilities--or get some much needed rest!

In addition to taking care of day-to-day baking duties in the kitchen, pastry chefs often have to engage in menu planning, budgeting, and staffing, often in collaboration with other chefs and upper-level kitchen staff. These duties might include developing desserts that complement other themes or entrees the restaurant is offering; generating suggestions for dessert wines, dessert cocktails, and digestifs; creating a budget for the pastry department; and managing personnel issues.

In some establishments, one pastry chef handles all of the baking and administrative duties for the department, while in larger facilities, an entire team might be required to handle these tasks. Team members might include positions such as:

  • Executive pastry chef
  • Baker
  • Pastry chef assistant
  • Pastry cook
  • Cake decorator
  • Pastry commis (apprentice)

How Will Formal Education Help You Become a Pastry Chef?

In the classical European apprentice system, those with aspirations of becoming a pastry chef often began as understudies at a very young age, arising before dawn's first light to scrub pans, mix batters, and perform other menial kitchen tasks under the eyes of experienced pastry chefs. Although some in the industry still rise through the ranks as apprentices and go on to reach the upper echelons of the profession as executive pastry chefs, there is a growing emphasis on formal education among newcomers in the field.

The increasing complexity of the demands placed on contemporary pastry chefs all but necessitates formal education for those with the ambition of reaching the top of the field. In the past, pastry chefs were expected to have a repertoire of traditional recipes and ratios that was relatively limited in scope. Now, the more adventurous palettes of today's diners require that pastry chefs have a handle on things like ethnic sweets from around the world, or the advanced scientific techniques used to create molecular gastronomy, deconstructed dishes, and other avant-garde desserts and confections.

What's more, pastry chefs who are engaged in the preparation of large quantities of baked goods and desserts, such as those who work in institutions or the catering field, often have to use complex mathematical calculations and chemistry formulas to scale up standard recipes.

Due to the significant professional demands placed on today's pastry chefs, the number of available pastry chef degree programs and courses has increased in recent years. Today, budding pastry chefs have many educational options at their disposal, including campus pastry chef degree programs at top culinary institutes or online pastry chef degree programs that can be completed, in large part, from the comfort of one's own home.

What Is the Job Outlook for Pastry Chefs?

Although Americans have been tightening their belt in recent years, most are still making room for a sweet treat. Although the economic tumult that hit the U.S. in the late 2000s put a dent in the amount of disposable income many families had for entertainment options such as fine dining, many Americans continued to indulge in affordable luxuries, like the occasional gourmet cookie or pastry--the cupcake craze that swept the nation during the recession is proof that even tough times can't put a damper on our love of decadent desserts.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the restaurant industry are likely to keep pace with those in the general workforce in the years to come. However, demand for highly skilled chefs and bakers such as pastry chefs with formal training and some experience is likely to be grow at an above-average pace.

Average Pastry Chef Salary

Because the experience and prestige of the positions in the pastry and baking field vary so widely, compensation can be quite variable as well, ranging from minimum-wage hourly jobs for inexperienced first-timers looking to get a leg up in the field to six-figure salaries for executive pastry chefs at top fine-dining establishments. Here are some average figures based on recent salary data:

  • Chef de partie: $17,000
  • Pastry cook: $22,000
  • Cook/baker: $25,000
  • Pastry chef: $44,000
  • Executive pastry chef: $53,000

Other factors that impact pastry chef salary include the location of the restaurant, the type of establishment, and whether or not the candidate has completed a pastry chef degree program.

If you're interested in pursuing a career as a pastry chef, consider signing up for one or two online pastry chef courses--it's a great way to determine whether your aptitude in the kitchen could translate into a full-time career in this exciting field.

About the Author:

Featured Culinary Schools

Searching Searching ...

Matching School Ads
5 Program(s) Found
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
  • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
  • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
  • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
  • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
  • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
  • Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
  • Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
  • Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
  • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
3 Program(s) Found
  • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
  • Offers several scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.
  • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
  • 4 Campuses located in Clovis, Modesto, and Redding in California, and Salem, Oregon.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Founded in Southern California in 1998 by dog training expert Steven Appelbaum.
  • The largest independent dog training company in the United States.
  • Offers 11-stage programs that feature an in-home study component along with a hands-on training module.
  • A member of the MyCAA Financial Assistance program, which offers eligible military spouses up to $4,000 of tuition assistance that can be used towards any of their courses.
  • Helps graduates find employment and coaches those who are looking to start their own business.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Ranked #11 in the 2015 Best Graduate Schools in Social Work by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers more specialization opportunities than any other social work program, with 10 concentrations and sub-concentrations and 8 dual-degree programs.
  • The first elite researching university to offer a Master of Social Work degree online.
  • Has 4,000 field internship opportunities that give students real-world experience.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Kaplan College - KHE , Palm Springs
  • Some campuses host low-cost medical and dental clinics, where students can get real-world experience.
  • Designated as 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1976.
  • Campus-specific accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 16 campus locations across the United States.
Show more [+]
  • Financial Aid
  • Ranked among the Best National Universities in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a 2014 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Houses one of the largest library systems in the Pacific Northwest, with 3 libraries on the Pullman campus and a library at each regional campus.
  • Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
  • Has 5 Washington campuses in Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and Everett.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Students can complete an entry-level technician program in about a year, and manufacturer training and graduate in as little as 18 months.
  • Provides technical education training programs for automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, and marine technicians.
  • Partners with many well-known manufacturers, including General Motors, Porsche Cars North America Inc., and BMW of North America LLC.
  • Offers internships to students and alumni for first-hand experience.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Show more [+]
  • Financial Aid
Unitek College , Online (campus option available)
  • Approved by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an A+ rating since 2010.
  • Established its main campus in Fremont, California, with satellite campuses in San Jose and Sacramento.
  • Offers programs in medical assisting, pharmacy technology, vocational nursing, and more.
  • Accredited by the ACCSC, with approval from the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians and the Board of Registered Nursing.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
  • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
  • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
  • Provides massage therapist education with multiple methods to ensure every student learns the material.
  • Offers lifetime career placement assistance and holds partnerships with a variety of employers.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
  • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
  • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
  • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
Show more [+]
  • Financial Aid
NCP College of Nursing , South San Francisco

NCP is a California State approved College of Nursing that serves the San Francisco Bay Area. Our nursing programs are attended by many students from nearby of San Francisco, Daly City, San Bruno, Pacifica, Millbrae, Brisbane, San Mateo, Burlingame, Hayward, San Leandro, Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Union City, Fremont, Concord and San Jose.