Becoming a Pastry Chef

September 22, 2012 21 Comments

Becoming a Pastry Chef

How to Become a Pastry Chef

If you are thinking of entering the food service industry as a baker or pastry chef, this is a good article for you to read and learn from. In addition, be sure to read Master Baker Leslie Bilderbacks interview and some of her comments on my blog including Cooking School Is Not For Everyone. If you are still thinking this is the career for you, check out GatewayGourmet’s listing of top Baking & Pastry Schools by State.

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.

A pastry chef’s job is interesting, challenging, creative and complex.  Of course, you create wonderful breads, pastries and desserts.  But they must also be beautiful—artistic presentation is more important for desserts than for any other part of the meal—people want something that is a feast for their eyes as well as their palates.

Qualities of a Good Pastry Chef

A good pastry Chef has certain personal characteristics, specific knowledge and specialized skills.

Personal characteristics

Pastry chefs need to be organized and detail-oriented.  Making desserts often requires several components that must be assembled individually and then brought together to create the final product.  Every ingredient has to be measured precisely and added in the correct way and in the correct order.  Good pastry chefs are very organized.

Pastry chefs are hard working.  Baking can start as early as 3 or 4 am.  Pastry chefs work long hours and they spend many of those hours on their feet.  It takes stamina and strength to do the work of a pastry chef.

Creativity is an important quality, more so than for any other type of cooking.  For example, Executive Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier was the White House pastry chef for 25 years, creating all the wonderful and beautiful desserts for every White House gala and state dinner.  In all that time, he never served the same dessert twice.  Now, that’s creativity.

Patience is definitely a virtue for a pastry chef.  Desserts can require extensive preparation—and the people who order the desserts can require extra patience, too.  It’s also good to have a sense of humor; laughter is a gift that makes patience much easier.

Knowledge

To be a good pastry chef, you need an understanding of the scientific principles behind your craft.  You’ll be using perishable and fragile foods and will need to understand the biology of food safety.  There’s a chemical basis for the way certain foods are combined.  You need a good understanding of nutrition and of human physiology.  You also need to know the basics of design—how to create visually appealing desserts.

Skills:  There are many skills you’ll acquire as you learn to be a pastry chef.  How to measure correctly, how to mix and blend.  Specific food preparation techniques.  How to make food visually appealing.  Plus people skills, management skills and business skills—all necessary skills for the pastry chef.

Education - Finding the Right Baking / Pastry School

There are several different educational opportunities for you to choose from if you want to become a pastry chef.  You could get a diploma or certificate, usually in less than a year.  This gives you the skills and knowledge for an entry-level position.  An associate degree gives you more skills and more basic education.  You’ll probably qualify initially for the same positions as a diploma graduate, but as you gain experience you’ll have more advancement opportunities than the diploma graduate.  If your goal is management, Executive Pastry Chef or teaching, you should consider eventually getting a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

Whatever level of education you choose, it’s important to choose the right program.  The most important things to consider when you’re comparing culinary programs are the faculty, the school’s accreditation and the facilities.

Faculty—culinary faculty should be chefs who have the appropriate education and industry experience to teach and mentor people who are entering the profession.

Accreditation—you’re looking for American Culinary Federation, Cordon Bleu or other recognized culinary accreditation.

Facilities—you should learn to cook in a professional kitchen with industry-standard equipment.

Some secondary considerations are the kinds of practical experiences available, the availability of flexible or part-time scheduling if you need it, finances, student support services and career placement services.

Read my article on choosing the right culinary school for you. The same advise holds true with pastry schools.

Career Options

Pastry chefs are not limited to baking bread and making cakes.  There are many career options open to you.  You can work in a bakery, restaurant or patisserie.  You can open your own business.  You can become a food critic or writer.  You can teach.  You could even become Executive Pastry Chef at the White House.

Pastry chefs are in demand and they are paid well.  The more education and experience you have, the more money you will make.  Experienced pastry chefs make upwards of $60,000/year.

Pastry chef or Chef de Patisserie is a wonderful career choice for anyone who is artistic and logical, practical and creative.  It’s a career with rich opportunities—making rich, wonderful and beautiful desserts.

Last modified on Mon 7 April 2014 10:18 am

Filed in: Culinary Careers

Comments (21)

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  1. Caitlin Mantini says:

    Very helpful thankyou

  2. Ryu says:

    This is very helpful in deed, especially for someone like me who doesn’t really know what they want to do in life yet. For awhile I’ve been playing with the idea of being a pastry chief,with the basic could I and would I,but back then I only had a small clue on what I would spend my hours doing. But after reading this there’s a certain understanding I’ve come to, to know at least what the minimum requirement I would possible need if I were to follow this idea and for that I thank you. :D

  3. Kai says:

    My son is in middle school and is very creative and likes to cook. We read this article together so that he could understand what it takes to be a pastry chef which he still refers to as a “baker”. It is never to early to begin to figure out what you want to do. Just helping him begin his dream. Thanks for the article!! :)

  4. Katarina says:

    My dream is to someday become a Pastry Chef and own my own business. I love baking and cooking, but right now I am writing a paper for English on this topic and I would love to know more about the education you have to have, what is the sarlary like, and what is it like owning your own business?
    Thank you,
    Katarina

  5. sandra says:

    hello my name is sandra,,,i live in annecy france,and i from ny,,,i am currenly looking in to becoming a pastry chef, and i have to pick a pastry shop as and apprintes before the school can accept me, its a two year course,i am currenly learning french also,,,i love the art of pastrys and disings of cakes,,any advice,,,thanks

  6. Stephanie says:

    how many years of school do you need to be a pastry chef. i am 16 and i have had this occupation in mind ever since i watched the food network channal. it is very interesting and i just want to know thanks

  7. Alan Amey says:

    i am wanting to know how to be one, how many years of school does it take. im in 8th grade, when do i or can i start?

  8. caitlynn says:

    hi my name is caitlynn im from australia sa as apart of my year 10 assignment for personal learning plan to pass year 10 we have to ask the following questions if any one could help that would be great- 1. What you do each day?

    Hours?
    Travel?
    Opportunities for promotion?
    Availability of jobs?
    Other- social expectations, physical fitness, expectation to serve one’s country

  9. Nice and informative article on what it takes to be a pastry chef. People looking at entering the field should most definitely have a handle on their proportions and measurements. Patience is one quality a good pastry chef can never have too much of. Especially when it comes to creating new, innovative and visually stunning desserts a good pastry chef needs to be willing to spend hours testing various recipes and techniques to achieve the best result.

  10. Grant Francis says:

    This was a good read thank you. I went to a local school which had pickup courses, and I found that I learnt a lot. Recently I joined an online school which I review the lessons at night, and just do it on my own time. I have found that this works much better with my busy schedule… I hope to one day open my own pastry shop. Anyways the site is http://www.pastrytraining.com

    Does anyone have any other recommendations for some recommended destination schools, like short term that I could take?

  11. kamranayyub says:

    That’s really a good way to teach them who wants to become chef and I really like your way of doing this.

    Hote Jobs Saudi Arabia

  12. sabir k ummer says:

    i am junior pastry chef working @ bglr but i have no knowledge but this is very very help full i like it
    …….

  13. Im 16 and this has made me understand more ideas.

  14. Marialisa Andrea Garcia says:

    I’m now really sure to stick to this career!!!

  15. Faith Madrid says:

    What would be the entry level to become a pastry chef?

  16. shanice says:

    My name is shanice and i live in jamaica and it is my greatest dream to become a pastry chef but. I currently study pharmacology in university…so i would like to know how many years would i need to become a pastry chef and would i need to start from scratch education wise in order to become a pastry chef..
    I love pastry.the way they taste
    the smell.the art and creativity.the harmony that is created when ingredients are combined.the finishing touch

  17. Virginia says:

    Great article! I will for sure read everything you reccomend and try to put my ideas in the right place. I’m crazy about pastry, took a few lessons here and there and now, I just realized that I really want to do is “plated desserts” . Is it possible to take classes only for that and become a pastry chef? Or better to take courses for Pastry and have an understanding of the whole picture? I appreciate!!!

  18. mayra solis says:

    I AM 10 YEARS OLD AND I WANT TO BE A PASTRY CHEF IT INSPIRED ME BY MY GRANDMOTHER WHEN SHE WOULD COME OVER I WOULD ALWAYS HAVE A COOKBOOK OUT AND WE WOULD BAKE TOGETHER

  19. Lazito Barretto says:

    As i was going through ,how to become the Pastry chef , the Pastry chef must have a good qualities,characteristics,knowledge and education.it gives me more confidence to become a professional PASTRY CHEF.

  20. Majesti De La Pena says:

    Hello my name is Majesti De La Pena and i am 14 year old and Deaf, I want to be become a chef since i was 9 years old. I want to know how to become chef and I want to show deaf can do it! I want to someone to help me to become chef. Right now i take cook class in high school and I hope my goal are successful! Thank you!

  21. ishasoni says:

    Hello,

    I am Isha Soni, I really love cooking, my aim to make a good chef, so you can suggest me what can I do for a good chef. I have planned to join the chef courses school and tell me the fees of chef courses.

    Thanks

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