How to Become a Professional Pastry Chef

January 10, 2011 26 Comments

How to Become a Professional Pastry Chef

What It Takes To “Earn” the Title of Pastry Chef

I get emails from high school kids, their parents, people looking to change careers and individuals looking to start new businesses asking about becoming a professional pastry chef or baker. They want to know where to start, is culinary school required, what skills are necessary….questions like these. So I put this article together with hopes that it will help answer some of these questions.

If not, there are a lot more articles about getting into the restaurant/food industry at my Culinary School Resources page and throughout the web site and blog. If you do a search, I’m sure you will find many of the answers you are looking for and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have by reaching out to my network of professional chefs.

Earn the Title of Pastry Chef

I call this article “what it takes to earn…” rather than “how to become…” because, in talking to many chefs I’ve met in pursuit of learning to cook through this website, they all say that nobody walks out of culinary school with the title of chef. Chef means “chief,” or the number one person in the kitchen, and only through long and varied experience in hotel and restaurant kitchens can someone claim the title “chef.”

Having said that, though, I am not trying to discourage anybody who has the desire and the passion to become a chef. After all, if you have your own business – say a cupcake business or a croissant bakery – you can call yourself “pastry chef” or “head baker” because you are technically in charge of your kitchen.   Regardless, here are a great number of roads you can take to earn the title pastry chef.

If you are interested in baking and pastry and are considering it as a career choice, it is important to know what area you want to focus on.

  • Do you want to bake artisan breads?
  • Are you interested in making wedding cakes?
  • Cupcakes?
  • Perhaps you are inspired by pastry competitions and really want to make complex presentation desserts.
  • Or maybe you want to become a chocolatier or candy maker.

There are many facets of baking and pastry, so it really pays to concentrate on a particular area.

How Do I Choose

The question then becomes, “How do I choose?” I think it’s important to take a look at what inspires you.  Like my oldest daughter, do you live for watching The Cake Boss?  Then maybe your passion lies in decorating high end wedding cakes.

Do you DVR Top Chef Desserts? You might consider working in a restaurant putting out high-volume and consistently excellent desserts.  If you find bread making therapeutic and relaxing and you get excited about words like “poolish,” “biga,” and “fermentation” you are probably going to want to look into becoming a baker.

If you’re still not sure, there are many ways to get your feet wet in these different areas without having to spend a lot of money.  Many craft stores offer cake decorating classes.  Consider signing up for one and seeing if you love it.  Look into enthusiasts’ cooking classes in your area.  Some restaurants and many caterers offer classes that focus on one specific area of cooking or baking.

Becoming a Pastry Chef

Using the Internet

A quick Internet search should turn up many opportunities in your local area.  If you are in junior high or high school, check and see if there are any Home-Ec type electives available at your school.  Go to the library and check out books on chocolate and candy making, on cake baking, or bread baking and learn from them.  Try out recipes, and then buy the books that really speak to you and hold your interest.

There are many online forums for bakers and cooks, and most of them welcome anyone from chefs with years of experience to novices.  These forums are wonderful places to go to get answers to your questions and to ask chefs and pastry chefs about their personal experiences. And then their are some great baking and pastry web sites.

Find a Job Locally

If you are old enough, you can get a part time job in a bakery.  Believe it or not, grocery store bakeries are pretty good places to start.  You’ll be exposed to baking everything from rolls to birthday cakes, and this can really help you decide where your interests lie.

Here’s another great idea.  Some company, organization or other is always having recipe contests.  Develop and submit recipes.  If your submission is the best, you win!  Winning contests is a wonderful way to gain experience in recipe development and in baking in general, and it is also an excellent confidence builder.  Listing your contest wins on your resume certainly won’t hurt, either!

Along a similar line, submit your baked goods to your county or state fair.  The judging will give you excellent feedback on your strengths and also in what you need to work on.  Again, coming up with a submission will involve at least a few test batches, and all of that experience will help hone your baking and pastry skills.

And don’t let lack of experience stop you from applying for jobs in restaurant kitchens.  One chef I talked to told me that passion and “teachability” are much more important than cooking or baking experience.
Strictly speaking, it is not necessary to attend a high-dollar culinary school to become a baker or pastry chef.

More and more schools are offering that option, and I’m not trying to discourage you from going to culinary school if you want to experience it, but willingness to learn on the job, practicing and experimenting on your own are time-honored ways of eventually earning the “chef” title.  Working your way up the ladder, at least in hotel and restaurant kitchens, really shows the people you work with that you are dedicated and serious about your chosen profession.

Going to Culinary School

If you know, however, that you want to go to culinary school, most nationally recognized programs offer specializations in baking and pastry.  This is a great option for “pastry folks” for a couple of reasons:

  1. Baking and Pastry programs are usually slightly less expensive than culinary programs and
  2. You won’t have to butcher any meat or filet a fish!

Another option is to attend a baking and pastry school strictly devoted to pastry arts.  Again, the Internet is your friend here.  Search for one in, or close to, your area, and then go visit.  You can find a good list of schools to start at Baking and Pastry Schools.

Make sure that you like what you see, that you like the instructors you meet and that you like their philosophy of baking education, whatever that may be.  Never, never, never apply to a school sight-unseen.  You want to make sure it is a good fit for you, so make sure you go take a tour of the facilities and ask a lot of questions.

No matter what road you decide to take on your journey to become a pastry chef, you should continue to bake and explore pastries on your own and in your own kitchens.  They say practice makes perfect, and “they” are not wrong.  Not only will your techniques and methods come more and more easily, but you’ll be improving the speed and accuracy with which you complete baking tasks, and working precisely and quickly are skills that are necessary, whether you work in a bakery, a restaurant kitchen or your own shop.

Last modified on Sat 11 January 2014 5:33 pm

Filed in: Culinary Careers

Comments (26)

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  1. Kayla Wishart says:

    Hello my name is Kayla Wishart and I’m from Bremmer Tafe Institution.
    Currently doing year 11 hospitality, our assessment is to answer a few question of what we want to be when we get older and i would like to be a pastry chef and i would please like to know the career paths to be a pastry chef. Before Tuesday 22nd February
    Thank you.

  2. Ashley Lewis says:

    Hey my name is Ashley “Cheyenne” Lewis I am a junior in High School and doing a research project and Mine is on Pastry Chefs I love cooking and need help on some info for project if I could please ask some questions and get help on how to become a pastry chef and what it takes. Thank You Cheyenne

    Hi Ashley, wish I could help but I am not a pantry chef but there is a lot of interesting information here about becoming a pantry chef in this post plus links to other articles and interviews with professional pastry chefs. If you need me to put you in contact with one, please send me an email from my web site. – RG

  3. Hau Vo says:

    Hi my name is Hau “Huu” Vo I am done with high school but I am having hard time deciding on what career field i should go into. I love to bake cakes, cookies, bread, and cook my own foods but my family doesn’t support me being a pastry chef. My friends strongly support me because in this field i can broaden and hone my skills that i have not noticed that has laid dormant inside of me for years. I have looked at your website and read your articles. It seems my interest lays within becoming a pastry chef. I thank you sir or ma’am for making this website. I was at a lost for making up my decision on what i want to be but now that I think about it. My dream is and was to become something I love to do whether if its hard or not i will give it my all to make it come true. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this website, articles, and pictures. Thank You Hau

    You are welcome Hau and good luck with your future. – RG

  4. Kelsey Canterbury says:

    Hi My name is Kelsey Canterbury, and im from Sandusky Ohio im currently in 11 grade, and im doing a project about what i want to be when i grow up, this information was very helpful thanks!

  5. Kaylee Woods says:

    Hello. I am Kaylee. I am a Junior in High School this year, but I am graduating early in November of 2012. I have been looking into the Art Institute for my next step in culinary. I have a major passion for pastry. From chocolatiering, baking large cakes and decorating them, to baking cookies, cupcakes, and candies. I love it all! I would like to know what would get me far. How can I be successful with my passion? Is the Art Institute a good start or should I look into somewhere else? If so, where exactly should I look into? I would love to work in a private country club. What type of education does that take? Can I do so with being into Pastry? Your help is appreciated greatly, Kaylee

    • Hi Kaylee, great to hear about your passion for pastry. I don’t have an absolute answer on how to be successful but passion is a good start and then hard work. You say you would like to work in a private country club so I would suggest with your parents permission, you try and get a job working in one to get some experience and make sure this is what you really want to do. If not a country club, how about a local bakery or restaurant? Do your homework. Research several schools besides the Art Institute and compare what they have to offer. Get your parents involved and see if they will take you to visit some of these schools to see the campus and classrooms. And be sure to speak to as many students and graduates as possible. Be sure to read as much as you can about becoming a pastry chef and the industry in general being sure to look at not only the pluses but the negatives as well. Check to see if there are community classes that you can take while still in high school. There you will meet other people interested in doing what you are doing plus you may meet some professionals in the field. This is a start and hopefully there will be some other comments too from other readers who can offer some advice. Good luck and please to let me know how your journey goes.

  6. joy fisher says:

    thanks i love cooking sweets and you were really helpful!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. torre says:

    I am writing because I would like to know more about being a pastry chef/owning a small business. I am currently an art student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to bake and create artistic desserts for my friends and family to enjoy. I have decided, later than I would have liked, that this is the best career path for me. I’ve been talking to an admissions representative for Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. There are a few culinary schools in Portland but this seems like the best fit for me. I plan on getting a certificate in Pâtisserie and Baking, while potentially getting an associates degree in business. (I have come to find out that I 4 year university, such as the U of O, is not the best place for me.) My goal is to move to Portland and get as much experience as I possibly can, move back to Eugene, and open a small bakery on the campus of the University of Oregon. The UO campus is a large community of students who love to indulge in various treats along campus. I have noticed that small businesses do quite well in this area, especially ones that cater to the late night needs of the UO students. All I ask of you is perhaps a few tips on how to succeed in this type of business. I would also like some advice when it come to making the best decision in going to culinary school. A response would be greatly appreciated. Have a good day and God bless.

    • Hi Torre, thanks for writing and good luck with your career. There are many tips for you to check out on my web site and blog. Read the articles and interviews but my best advice would be to contact local bakeries and ask if you can talk to the owners about the business. The more you get out and talk with people doing what you want to do, the better understanding you will have of what you need to do to get there. Hope this helps.

  8. desika says:

    hallo my name desika, im 18 y.o
    i wanna be a pastry ches as like you,
    but what i should do first?
    and i interest to be owner of pastry cafe or other,
    can you help me please, thanks
    you’re so amazing !!

  9. Taylor Caroselli says:

    Hello, My name is Taylor and I want to become a pastry chef when I get older. I am currently 16 years and in my sophomore year of high school. I have a passion for making desserts. I go to Monroe Career & Technical Institute. I am in the culinary arts program. I have this research project that we have to do do on our careers and this is what I choose. Am I making the right chose? I mean everyone tells me that being a pastry chef doesn’t make a lot of money. I am not doing this job just for money but for fun. I love to create dishes that make people go wow! Can you please help me figure this out? I need information before April 1, 2012. Thank You, and I hope you reply back to me !

    • Hi Taylor, you ask if you are making the right choice so I would suggest you do as much homework as you can on the subject and most importantly, get your parents involved and on board with your decision. Read as much as you can, talk to as many professionals as you can, bake as much as you can. If it is OK with your parents, maybe you can find some part time work in a bakery and see if this is what you really want to do. You are in a culinary program at school so I’m sure your instructors are available for consultation. The more you learn about this career, the more you will be able to make an informed decision. Good luck and please keep me informed of your progress.

  10. Andrea Hernandez says:

    Hi, my name is Andrea. I am 16 years old and I am a junior in high school. I am doing a senior project on becoming a pastry chef and/or owning your own business as a baker and I needed to talk to an expert in the field. I was wondering if you could help me out by just answering some of my questions? Perhaps if I e-mailed you some of the questions you could e-mail me back..I would really appreciate your help and I would love to hear back from you ASAP, well thank you for considering to help me. -Andrea.

    Hi Andrea, I would like to be helpful but I am not a professional baker or pastry chef so I suggest you contact one of the many professional bakers blogging to answer your questions. Good luck. – RG

  11. Devan Ann Tam- Noll says:

    i appreciate what all you have to say about your university, accept i am only thirteen years old and in seventh grade, maybe when i am older i will try to admittion to go to this university and hopefully i will be able to get to join this universtiy.
    And as i have said before, thank you for the information and thank you for your time.

  12. Devan Ann Tam- Noll says:

    i have another favor to ask of you, if i had to go to a culinary university, i want to know before i make my decision to go and if you can, please do reply and tell me how i could possibly get more information. again thank you for your time and thank you for all that you have done for others as well, they all seem so proud of their passion for becoming a pastry chef, your inspiration is appreciated by me and the others that submit their comments.
    Devan Tam- Noll age 13

    Hi Devan, not sure exactly what you are asking but I would suggest you ask your parents to help you contact schools you are interested in to answer your questions. – RG

  13. cyan says:

    hi, just wanted to say thanks. im doin a project in the 8th grade and this info was really helpful!!!

  14. Valeria Chierico says:

    hello! My name is Valeria, i am italian and live outside London, UK. I read your articol with interest. All the info I have found are precious to me. I really needed help and you have inspired me more clearly. 2 years ago I moved to UK, for my husband job, but just before that I took a course programme on “How to became a pastry chef” at the Italian Academy of Pastry Chef directed by Maestro Giovanni Pina. My experience was so positive that i couldn’t leave it as just a course for adult. i am 45 now and with 2 girls I can’t expect to apply for famous and expensive school like you mentioned. So I apply for a position in the kitchen as GA general asst. in my daughter’s school with Hertfordshire Catering. After a year my boss ask me if i would consider higher position as Cook. I accepted and after a full training i am working in another school as Cook manager, so not only cooking but also manage food and orders. it’s only 3 months and I can see myself improving. but still in my heart the love for pastries and especially a deep passion for chocolate! my mum also thaught me how to make pasta by hand besides pizza and focaccia, so sometimes i think i Should go that way. Other times i think i should open an italian ice cream place since there is no one. I would like to go into restaurant or pastry shop or even a one star michelin restaurant but I think my age is not on my side. Thank you for Your articol that helped me already but if you have anything else that i need to consider I would love to hearing from you. ciao Valeria.

  15. Piper says:

    Hi, I was just wondering:
    Is a university required for a job such as a pastry chef?
    I am currently in the “choosing a career pathway” stage in my schooling, and I was confused as to what after high school education I needed to take.

  16. Joshua Kwak says:

    How do I choose a baking and pastry school?

  17. Harshita Mundhra says:

    Thank you so much. This article really helped me. I hope it inspires and motivates a lot of people just like me who are considering to take this as a profession.

  18. donnette says:

    I like suggestions and examples to earn and not to become a pastry chef/baker was helpful thanks .

  19. Monika says:

    HI! My name is Monika I live in Europe and I was born here, and I will go to a culinary school here, but I am a dual citizen(american too). I was just wondering if I go to a school here(in europe), and have a certificate about beeing a pastry chef will it count if I go back to the U.S.? I mean can I work as a pastry chef in the U.S. or I will have to go to a culinary school there again?
    Thank you for your answer,
    Monika

  20. Julie says:

    I’m thinking about becoming a pastry chef/baker. Do pastry chefs work mostly nights or do they work daytime hours? Thank you in advance for your help.

  21. Charlotte says:

    i love baking sweet treats and was wondering what i have to do to become a pastry chef and run a cooking business.

  22. irene says:

    hi im irene 23,

    ever since i got this dream of having a job which i will not consider a job..
    i want to become a great pastry chef.. but i don’t know how to do that ..

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