If you have a sweet tooth, you’ve probably had your share of cravings for pastries. Eclairs, croissants, tarts, macarons, puff pastry, danishes… and the delicious list goes on and on. It might seem like you need to pick up these items from a fancy bakery to satisfy your sweet tooth, but the truth is that you can learn to make them yourself. That’s right—you can become a pastry chef!
And while you might choose to keep your pastry skills to yourself, you might also find such a passion for baking that you decide to make a career of it. Keep reading to learn all the ins and outs of becoming and working as a pastry chef.
What Is a Pastry Chef?
A pastry chef—also known as a pâtissier, if you’re feeling fancy or French—is a chef trained specifically in the art of pastry.
Pastry is a broad umbrella term used to describe desserts made using a sweet dough of flour, shortening, and water. Dough recipes will vary from one type of pastry to another, and different pastries will also have their own unique frostings, fillings, and fruit toppings. A pastry chef is a master of all of these details.
What Is the Difference Between a Pastry Chef and a Baker?
You might be thinking to yourself, Well, that sounds a whole lot like a baker. This is a common misconception. Pastry chefs and bakers both make delicious treats that people love. But there is, in fact, a difference between the work of a pastry chef and a baker.
A lot of it comes down to semantics! The word “chef” actually means “boss,” so a dessert professional with the pastry chef title is likely in some sort of management role. They may be responsible for developing new dessert menus and testing recipes. A baker, on the other hand, usually works from existing recipes.
Another difference between chefs and bakers is the type of dessert they work on. Bakers may focus exclusively on baked goods, while chefs deal with all types of confections, including more complex, technical dessert presentations. Think of it this way: All pastry chefs are bakers, but many bakers are not pastry chefs.
What Does a Pastry Chef Do?
A pastry chef is responsible for every step along a dessert’s journey. They’ll use their expertise to create a recipe, test various techniques on that recipe, and then apply any necessary modifications to perfect it on the plate. A pastry chef must know enough about the science of baking that they can troubleshoot when a recipe doesn’t work out the way they expected.
A pastry chef is also a master of decorations and fine detail! If you’ve ever looked in the window of a bakery or pastry shop, you know how high the standards are for the presentation of these desserts. The best pastry chefs understand how to make the treats they create look as good as they taste.
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How to Become a Pastry Chef
Interested in pursuing your passion for pastry? Curious if you can turn it into a profession? Want to know how to be a pastry chef? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Degrees for a Chef
Entry-level pastry chef jobs will likely only require a high school diploma or GED—but if you really want to take your chef career seriously, you can take a few extra steps to show future employers that you’re not messing around. Baking and pastry arts degrees are available at many two-year colleges (as associate degrees) and culinary schools.
When you pursue one of these degrees, you’ll have access to a mix of classroom and hands-on instruction. A pastry or culinary school will also be able to connect aspiring pastry chefs with apprenticeships, internships, and jobs that will help launch their careers after graduation. You’ll be more than ready to meet the expectations of a pastry job description with this kind of training on your resume.
Certifications aren’t always required, but it’s worth noting that the American Culinary Federation offers five levels of certification for chefs. Securing one—or more—of these certifications is one way to demonstrate your commitment to your craft.
If you’re interested in working as a full-time pastry chef, you should look for as many opportunities as possible to work in professional kitchens, even if those opportunities aren’t specifically for pastry.
As a line cook, server, or food runner, you’ll gain exposure to important aspects of the food service industry, including safety and hygiene practices. This will come in handy later on when you’re making all of your pastry dreams come true. Potential employers will also be impressed that you pursued a wide range of jobs in the restaurant world.
Jobs for Pastry Chefs
Where can a pastry chef work? These chefs are in demand in all kinds of environments. Here are a few places where you can work as a professional:
- Cruise ships
- Large hotels, resorts, and conference centers
- Catering groups
- Grocery stores
Thanks to the wide range of job options in the field, skilled chefs will be able to find a work environment that is well suited to their schedule, lifestyle, and abilities.
When you’ve spent a few years working as a chef, you might be ready for a promotion to an executive pastry chef job. An executive pastry chef plays a larger role in the desserts prepared at an establishment. Executive chefs supervise the preparation and production of pastries and desserts and often have other bakers and/or pastry chefs reporting to them.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a chef is approximately $39,540, which equates to about $17 per hour. That said, a chef’s salary will vary greatly based on location, job responsibilities, and level of experience.
Become a Pastry Chef!
Are you ready to take your love of desserts to new heights? Becoming a pastry chef is a fantastic career opportunity for sweets lovers and kitchen aficionados alike. Use this guide to help you navigate your steps to professional pastry.
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