Pastry Chef Job Description
A pastry chef, also known as a ‘Patissier’ or ‘Patissiere’, is specialized culinary chef who is well-trained in making pastries, breads, desserts and other baked goods. Pastry chefs work in a wide variety of venues such as bakeries, restaurants, hotels, bistros and even in some cafes.
Pastry chefs create the breads and desserts for the restaurant. This may include a wide variety of products that include everything from biscuits and rolls to candy, ice cream and elaborate dessert structures. Some positions, such as on cruise ships, caterers or wedding-specific venues may require more elaborate, decorative sculptures in addition to meal fare.
In addition, pastry chefs must maintain their ingredients and inventory, communicate regularly with vendors and wholesalers as well as the sous chef and executive chef (or owner). They work closely with the sous and executive chefs to develop new recipes, menu planning, testing and sampling as well.
The pastry chef is usually responsible for adhering to a budget and supervising or mentoring junior pastry chefs and assistants. The work areas must be kept very clean and organized at all times, adhering to specified sanitation and cleanliness guidelines. Equipment must be kept clean and maintained for everyone’s safety. Sous chefs are also responsible for working with local farms and wholesalers to purchase the freshest fruits and berries, as well as ordering all other supplies for the pastry kitchen.
In some higher end restaurants, the pastry kitchen is usually slightly separate (but still connected) from the busy main kitchen. Pastry chefs typically have junior chefs or assistants working with them on a daily basis. Pastry work allow for creative expression that is rare in other kitchen positions. The work is usually much slower paced, with far less direct pressure.
It’s not all sweetness and styling though; a pastry chef’s hours and training are very different. Because pastry items often need long cook and preparation times, the workday usually begins before the sun comes up, often as early as 2:00 – 3:00am. Sometimes the hours can be long and very hot – twelve hours or more with many large ovens operational constantly, so pastry students should have the physical stamina to sustain themselves for these lengths of time. The work can be detailed, tedious and repetitive, with chefs standing on their feet in kitchens for long periods of time, often bent over a project.Often bread products are needed for meal items and plating, so they need to be ready long before service begins when meal prep is occurring in the larger main kitchen. Pastry and baking work is very much an exact science, requiring more precision and technical skills, as well as math and science knowledge than most other types of cooking.
Most pastry chefs today will tell you that education is fundamental when you are beginning your career. It’s important to become well-versed in the basics and concepts before you are elevated to the design of intricate wedding cakes or the building of chocolate towers. A combination of core knowledge and real-world experience is fundamental in securing the desirous position of pastry chef – especially at a high-end or high-visibility venue.
There are many culinary schools that have top-notch programs, and many require internships (or externships) as part of the graduation requirement. They offer a wide variety of programs, from basic certificate programs through a bachelors and advanced degrees. It’s important to make sure your school is accredited, and offers a placement program that aligns with your goals. The cost of culinary school varies greatly, ranging from under $1,000 for some certificate programs to upwards of $50,000 per year for some of the well-know, international schools. Your goals, finances and location are the biggest factors in choosing a culinary program. Smaller cities offer lower costs and lower student-teacher ratio, but often have older equipment, smaller kitchens and fewer post-graduation options. Larger cities will have greater post-education placement opportunities and a wider variety of options of different types of restaurants, but may have much higher tuition and living costs.
Many pastry chefs receive the bulk of their training on the job, after graduation. Many times, pastry chefs will have worked in many other positions within a typical kitchen brigade, and found to have an interest (or talent) for pastry. In some cases, pastry chefs are self-taught practitioners who learned their skills and honed their talents through years of on-the-job training. In other cases, classically trained chefs garnered their skills through traditional culinary education and internships.
Pastry Chef Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Pastry Chefs through 2022 is 5% growth. The salary varies greatly depending on location, venue and experience, but ranges from approximately $20,000 – $45,000 per year, with the average salary being around $25,000. There is fierce competition for coveted positions in high-end restaurants, and chefs with the most relative experience are typically selected.