How to Find a Job as a Pastry Chef
I receive a lot of emails every day from people young and old interested in going to culinary school. Some want to start their careers in the restaurant industry, some are looking to change careers.
Check out the culinary career page for a great culinary arts resource by offering articles, schools listed by state, chef interviews and opinions both pro and con about attending school.
Recently I received this email from Wendy who wrote me and said,
"I have a culinary degree and a baking and pastry degree. It was my dream to become accredited in pastry as soon as I got out of school, but I got stuck making salads in a job I hate because no one will hire me, not even as an assistant because I lack the 3 years experience. How do I get experience if no one will hire me? I'm 41 years old and I'm sick of not having my dream job." Wendy
I sent this email to my friend Chef Jennifer Field, a graduate of the Orlando Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School (closed). Chef Jennifer has worked as a pastry chef in several restaurants and offered Wendy the following good advice:
I do feel for you. I graduated from culinary school in baking and pastry when I was 39, and it can be hard to break into a game that is generally a "young person's" game. Sounds like you are working at a garde manger station. Many garde manager folks are also dessert platers--is that your situation? If so, perhaps you could work into a full-time pastry position.
What market are you in and how competitive is it? I'm a little surprised that there is a 3 years of experience rule to even get an assistant position. Do you want to work in fine dining? Catering? Banquets?
You might have to put in your time in a less-than-ideal (for you) pastry position to gain the necessary experience that the job market you're in requires. Are you in a position to stage somewhere to get some experience?
You might have to think outside the box a little and consider advertising that you'll make special desserts for dinner parties or something. Craigslist is great for things like that. And of course, take pictures of everything you do, even if you're just experimenting.
Also, you might consider asking for a working interview for a job you're interested in. Tell them that you'll be happy to do a Mystery Basket or just work in production or on the line for a few hours as part of the interview process. That way, the person hiring you (not to mention the people you could potentially be working with) would get a chance to see you in action. Then you'll be able to show them what you can do.
Those are just a couple of ideas. I know that breaking in can be frustrating. Sometimes when doors aren't opening when and where you want them to, you have to just get out the Skill-saw and cut out your own door.
Best of luck to you.
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.