The pastry chef, also known as a patissier, is a chef specialized in crafting sweet and salty baked goods. They are the ones getting up in the morning to create warm and fluffy croissants and the ones who stay up late to decorate the wedding cake for the next day event. The position is rather complex and so are the requirements listed in the pastry chef job description, regardless if the available position is in a restaurant, a bistro or a boulangerie.
Short pastry chef job description
The pastry chef is a chef specialized in all types of baked goods, starting with salty pies and tarts and ending with intricate wedding and anniversary cakes. The pastry chefs are in charge of creating recipes, measuring ingredients, molding and baking breads and perform all types of baking. They are also responsible of managing the kitchen and dealing with the ingredient suppliers, which makes their “to do” list quite long.
The pastry chef job openings are usually in restaurants, where the pastry chef must create personalized desserts to end a meal, plate them accordingly for serving and create special drink suggestions to go along with the dessert. A similar role, but at a smaller scale is performed by pastry chefs in bistros. In bakeries, the pastry chefs are in charge of baking and in some times selling specialized products. In most cases, bakeries are owned by pastry chefs, therefore impeccable managing skills and a good sense of business must be added to the recipe for a good pastry chef.
Tasks and responsibilities
The pastry chef job description includes a long list of tasks and responsibilities. The working hours of a pastry chef are divided between working in the kitchen, organizing and educating kitchen staff and purchasing necessary ingredients for future products. The following tasks and responsibilities are usually adapted to the location in which the pastry chef will work as well as to the number of people working in the kitchen.
• Create and prepare desserts in accordance with the existent menus;
• Create and bake breads to accompany different meals in restaurants;
• Decorate cakes and baked goods according to requirements;
• Plate desserts for serving;
• Pair recommended desserts with appropriate wines, cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks, etc.
• Create cheese plateaus to complement a meal;
• Creates baked goods for specific diets (gluten free, sugar free, diabetes-friendly, etc.);
• Inspect the quality of the ingredients and measure them for specific recipes;
• Talk to suppliers and choose the ingredients needed for desserts and other baked goods;
• Establish a budget for ingredient purchase;
• Ensure that the kitchen equipment is in good conditions and meets all requirements;
• Organize the kitchen staff and supervise while working;
• Train the kitchen staff to meet imposed standards;
• Hire necessary personnel so that the kitchen functions smoothly;
• Organizes and conducts tasting sessions for the waiting staff and for potential clients when the situation requires it;
• Cleans the equipment and utensils and maintains the kitchen clean and in good order for proper functioning.
There are two ways of acceding in the league of the best U.S. pastry chefs. The first is to start as an apprentice in a bistro or restaurant and go up on the kitchen ladder once they achieve necessary skills and experience. The other way of becoming a pastry chef is to undergo specific education at one of the U.S. colleges providing professional courses. Some of the most famous pastry chef schools include:
• The Institute of Culinary Education (New York),
• International Culinary Center (New York City and Silicon Valley),
• Texas Culinary Academy,
• The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington,
• Le Cordon Bleu Dallas Texas,
• Pennsylvania Culinary Institute,
• Culinary Institute at Hyde Park NY,
• Western Culinary Institute (Cordon Bleu) (Portland Oregon),
• Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts at Minneapolis/St. Paul,
• L’Academie de Cuisine,
• International Culinary Center (Italian Culinary Experience)
You can find great pastry chef courses in every state. The courses usually include information on nutrition, sanitation and food preparation. Apart from the theoretical part, students will also have hands-on courses to try different baking techniques. Depending on the type of education you are looking for, the courses can last less than a year (if you want a certificate) or a few years (bachelor degree for teaching, for Executive pastry chef or for management skills).
The American Culinary Association organizes courses and exams for professionals looking for official certification. There are different levels to achieve, with the highest level being the Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC). Management courses are recommended when opening a bakery or a bistro.
Experience is paramount when coordinating a kitchen, so most pastry chef job descriptions ask for at least 2 years of experience in working in a professional kitchen. Education is sometimes overlooked if the pastry chef has the necessary experience in working on this position. A good way to achieve both education and experience is to apply for an apprenticeship program available at the culinary association near you. The American Culinary Federation (ACF), for example, offers apprenticeship programs which last between 2 and 4 years, in which apprentices work under specialized surveillance and are compensated for their work. Complementary, the apprentices are required to complete courses in food safety, nutrition and specialized management. This type of program is recommended to beginners looking to learn the basis of patisserie as it offers both theoretical and practical skills, requested in any pastry chef job description.
The salary of a pastry chef varies significantly from the location in which they work the region where the business is located and their experience in the field. The starting compensation is rather modest, with an annual compensation of $17,000 for a freshly graduated pastry chef. The average salary of an experienced pastry chef working in a restaurant varies from $30,000 to $50,000. Professionals who start their own business have the highest income, with an average reported salary of $60,000.
Most of the pastry work is done in the morning, long before the first clients arrive at the bakery/restaurant. Usually, the day starts between 2am and 4am for a pastry chef working in a unit which serves breakfast. Most baked goods need to be done the same day, so cakes and desserts are done after breakfast. This means that the pastry chef’s day is full and the schedule is longer than the usual 9 to 5 job.
The pastry chef job offers great potential. Restaurant clients are more educated in culinary arts, so they appreciate desserts designed to fit the overall meal. Therefore the need for skilled pastry chefs is expected to increase constantly in the following years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, there are around 100,600 pastry chef positions in the U.S. and their number is estimated to increase by 1% until 2020.
The pastry chef is an artist, crafting its art works in flour, butter and sugar. In order to create masterpieces, they need a number of skills vital to this job. Part of them is innate, part is acquired during years of work, but all are sharpened through education and perseverance.
Pastry chefs are required to create new types of breads and desserts, so knowledge of the ingredients and creativity are required in order to successfully play with flavors. Furthermore, their work must be appealing for the eye, so creativity will be used to decorate baked goods in an attractive manner.
• Leadership skills
Usually, the pastry chef supervises and directs the kitchen staff; therefore good leading skills are essential for a proper collaboration. They are also in charge of hiring people, assigning duties to the staff and motivate the workers when working under pressure.
• Attention to detail
From carefully measured ingredients to elaborate cake décors, everything requires great attention to detail. One extra cup of flour or a minute of distraction when creating a whipped cream decoration may have disastrous consequences.
• Good taste and smell
It is obvious why these two senses must be extremely developed. A pastry chef must smell and taste the ingredients as well as the product in different stages in order to ensure the best quality for the finished product. Also, they also rely on taste and smell to make new combinations that enchant clients.
• Proper cooking technique and coordination
Technique is essential for anyone working in a kitchen and pastry chefs make no exception. Knowing the exact baking times and temperatures, the optimal amount of filling and the necessary steps to create perfect baked goods is compulsory for any pastry chef.
• Time management
The baked goods must be ready in the specified time, so each step must be carefully calculated and the time span perfectly followed. This can be quite a challenge when the kitchen becomes crowded with people and orders. Also, the pastry chef must perfectly divide their time between managerial duties, talking to contractors and baking/cooking.
• Organizing skills
The pastry chef must perfectly organize in order to assign specific tasks to kitchen staff. They need to avoid giving too many or too few tasks to one individual. Also, they need to know what tasks can be performed by an individual in the staff and what task should be avoided by the same person. This way they use each staff member to operations which they know best.
• Good customer service skills
When the pastry chef is also in charge of selling the baked goods, proper client interaction will increase the sales and create returning customers.
In addition to the skills acquired during culinary school or apprenticeship years, the pastry chef job description also requires a number of personal features without which no professional can survive in a kitchen, regardless if it is a bistro, restaurant, boulangerie or bakery kitchen.
• Passion for sweet and savory baked goods- passion is what fuels any good pastry chef. Unlike other jobs, which can be learned, the patissier cannot work in the field without a high level of passion for baked goods in their blood.
• Physical strength – similarly to any other professional working in the kitchen, the pastry chef spends most of their time standing or walking from counter to counter. Therefore, it is essential that they have good physical strength to carry them throughout the working day. Furthermore, the working day may be prolonged if special orders must be delivered, so staying fit is essential.
• Stress management – stress is part of every kitchen, mainly because the products are done from scratch in a short amount of time. Each step is carefully planned, so one small mistake can detour the entire kitchen schedule. The pressure is high and the pastry chefs have no room for errors, so stress control and a good morale are essential.
• Aesthetic sense – most of pastry chef’s creations are displayed for public admiration. Wedding cakes, candy bars for different occasions, anniversary and birthday cakes are all baked goods which must look as good as they taste. For this, the pastry chef must use their aesthetic taste to create wonderful decors in color combinations which match the given theme.
• Learning abilities – the learning process is continuous for pastry chefs. There are always new techniques to be mastered and new combinations to be perfected; therefore the professional pastry chefs never cease to learn.
• Perseverance – there are times when the cake, pie, bread, etc., does not come out the way it is supposed to, but it is important to never give up. Perseverance will eventually pay off and the results will be according to the highest standards.
The pastry chef position requires numerous personal and professional skills, including a high dose of passion and devotion. However, the rewards are equally high, both financially and spiritually. The satisfaction of a work well done and the happiness on client’s faces worth more than the hours spent in the kitchen.