You might think that the sole job of a pastry chef is to make pastries. But there is more to it than that. Their work will also involve managing every aspect of the kitchen, negotiating with inventory suppliers, and coordinating menus with other chefs and serving staff.
It’s a complex, integral role to play that has you responsible for a pallet far beyond pies and flan, and the sky’s the limit for those with talent and drive.
Do you cut?
Difference between Pastry Chef and Baker
Before we delve into the career of the pastry chef, it is worth noting to differentiate it from a baker. Most people use them interchangeably, but they have different jobs.
The first difference is in their specialties. The specialty of a baker is bread, rolls, cookies, and quiches. Pastry chefs, on the other hand, specialize in dessert-related products. Bakers may opt to become pastry chefs while the latter is already considered bakers. Regarding income, pastry chefs earn more than bakers.
The bottom line is that you should choose a role that you enjoy the most.
Pros and Cons of Being a Pastry Chef
Like any other career where you get to work with your hands, there are good and bad points of being a pastry chef. One advantage is that you can maximize your creativity. You do not have to rush like other chefs. Keep in mind that your specialty as a pastry chef is dessert and cakes which may need time. A second advantage is that a pastry chef can work in any part of the world.
A downside of being a pastry chef is that you work long and irregular hours. Most of the time, you work in the wee hours of the morning until late at night. There are also a lot of tedious and repetitive tasks such as carrying heavy bags and preparing the same ingredients. Depending on where your work, being a pastry chef can also be stressful.
How to Become a Pastry Chef
There are different ways you can become a pastry chef. While most employers would want their pastry chefs to have a degree or certificate, many types of chef training are suitable.
You can get formal training from culinary and pastry chef programs, or in culinary schools or trade schools. The advantage of getting formal training is that you will be equipped with different techniques that you may not learn through self-study.
You get taught about food science and baking chemistry, which are essential knowledge for becoming a good pastry chef. As for the skills, you may need some mathematical skills as you will be dealing with recipes and measures of ingredients. Precision is also a necessary skill especially in temperatures and chemical reactions.
Another way is to take online courses. However, this is aimed towards a casual baker and not a professional one. Should you decide to go online, you will still need to take the laboratory portion in a classroom.
Another way you can become a pastry chef is through apprenticeship. You can become an apprentice in place of formal training. Although not the most common route, still many consider it as more practical and attractive. The best thing about apprenticeship is that you are in the tutelage of a professional pastry chef. For your apprenticeship, you will still need to have 12 formal courses. Many culinary organizations offer apprenticeship programs.
How to Become a Pastry Chef without Going to School?
However, some people do not have the means to take online courses, have formal training, or join apprenticeship programs. The good news is that you can still become a pastry chef even without going to school or training. Proper education still counts but it is not a necessity as far as being a pastry chef is concerned. Here is what you can do:
- Apprentice with an experienced baker in an actual bakery. After all, the experience is the best teacher.
- Read and study well-known books about baking
- Practice and experiment. You can always ask your friends and family to provide you with unbiased feedback.
How much is the salary of a pastry chef?
The salary of a pastry chef is as diverse as the paths you can take to become one. The location where you will work and the field will factor in the salary you will get. As such, don’t expect a pastry chef is working in a 5-star restaurant in New York City to have the same pay with a pastry chef employed in a small town restaurant.
Other factors that may impact your salary as a pastry chef include:
- Your experience
- The establishment where you are going to work
- Other responsibilities you may have
Tips for Building a Career as a Pastry Chef
Being a pastry chef is considered skilled work. Not everyone has steady hands when it comes to baking pastries or whipping up scones or getting the perfect amount of baking powder.
But aside from the things mentioned above, there are some things that you can do to take your baking skills to the next level:
Make that leap.
At first, you may be baking pastries. However, as you gain more experience, you will have to accept more responsibilities. For instance, you can manage a team of other chefs. It can be overwhelming at first, but the rewards are great. So make your way up to the chef ladder as you become more experienced.
Don’t stop learning.
You can always try out new techniques or play with new flavors.
Experiment without fear of failure.
You will never learn and expand your skills if you will not experiment. Do not be afraid to make a mistake when trying out a new flavor or recipe. Who knows? That mistake may become a breakthrough. Start your experiment with a dessert or taste you are already familiar with.
The career of a pastry chef is both fun and rewarding. At the end of it all, it still a matter of personal choice on whether or not making delicious cakes and pastries is the right career for you.