A pastry chef is only as great as the assistant supporting him. While the pastry chef takes responsibility for the recipe, execution and fine details, the assistant pastry chef handles the core duties of the station and the kitchen. If this is a career path you are interested in, you might just luck out, since not every kitchen requires formal education for its assistant pastry chefs.
Inventory and Maintenance
Assistant pastry chefs are responsible for inventorying all pastry-related ingredients and tools. Under the supervision of the pastry chef, the assistant may create weekly inventory reports and maintenance logs that are given to the chef de cuisine (or executive chef) of the kitchen.
Assistant pastry chefs operate like prep cooks. Though they are not chopping and peeling vegetables, they are preparing items for pastry, such as separating eggs, whipping cream, clarifying butter or measuring out ingredients. Assistant pastry chefs also create the core of each dessert, such as baking off cakes, frying crepes and making bread pudding. The executive pastry chef finalizes the dishes with sauces, garnishes and presentation. Assistant pastry chefs who show interest will get hands-on training from their executive pastry chefs to learn plating techniques and styles. After all, the assistant needs to operate like the executive pastry chef’s right hand, especially if the executive is ill or out for a shift.
The executive pastry chef creates the desert menu, but he will often rely on the experience and capabilities of his assistant pastry chef. Since the assistant is responsible for prepping and even plating, the assistant’s capabilities will determine how advanced the menu’s pastries will be.
Cleaning and Sanitization
Rarely does the executive pastry chef help clean up after the day. This is the secondary role of the assistant. Between dishes, the assistant will clean up used dishes, wash dishes and sanitize stations. At the end of the day, while the executive has gone, the assistant will clean the pastry station and even prepare items for the next day before leaving.
Though formal education is not always required, there are requirements that a professional kitchen may require from an assistant pastry chef applicant. First and foremost is the food handler’s permit. You can get this from your local health department and through an online course. While a food handler's permit is mandatory in any professional kitchen, a certification is usually preferred. Certifications are obtained from the American Culinary Federation. Being certified proves an applicant's level of expertise in pastry. Certifications range from two-year to master level and do not require formal education. To certify, applicants must prove work experience and take 90 hours of coursework in food safety, management and nutrition.
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