Baking isn't exactly rocket science, but it's detail-oriented enough that a lot of people struggle to do it well. That's why there are so many convenience products at your local supermarket, from mixes to frozen and pre-made baked goods. If you're a pastry chef, you might find that restaurants in your area have a similar preference for boxed desserts from the wholesaler. You can counter that by making a case for the importance of a pastry chef.
One of the primary advantages of having a pastry chef in-house is that you have the expertise to create unique, scratch-made pastries and desserts. Restaurants that rely on wholesale desserts are giving their customers a product they've had before in any number of places. Some of these are very good in their own way, but to regular diners they're awfully familiar. When you give your diners fresh-made desserts that are visibly different, you give them another reason to come back.
Setting a Tone
That ability to create desserts in-house can be a great asset to chefs who want to create a consistent tone throughout the menu. It's difficult for chefs to create a reputation for pushing boundaries if their desserts are the same old tired warhorses. The ability to conjure up desserts and pastries that offer the restaurant's same level of sophistication or experimentation, or use signature ingredients in similar ways will reflect well on the executive chef. Just be sure to match your pastry style to the style of the chef you're courting. For example, if you want to do edgy state-of-the-art desserts, a stodgy club is not the right setting.
Another point to raise with chefs or proprietors is that with an in-house pastry chef, they're protected against outside forces. If a delivery truck is late or a favorite dessert is discontinued by the wholesaler, the restaurant is usually left holding the bag. Establishments with their own pastry chef can improvise when the need arises. If one ingredient doesn't arrive, you can change on the fly to a different dessert. If a part-time line cook spills a pot of soup over the night's dessert cart, you can pull together replacements from the stash of emergency cake layers and doughs that any good pastry chef keeps tightly wrapped in the freezer.
Pump Up the Margins
Restaurants survive on very thin profit margins. Hiring a pastry chef offers the ability to control dessert costs and pump up margins. There's not a lot of room for markup on a wholesale dessert, but by making your own, you have reached the profit center Promised Land. Eggs, flour and sugar are seriously cheap in commercial quantities, and with a little creativity, you can make striking desserts that are highly profitable. Selling more desserts increases the restaurant's check average and increases overall profitability of a meal.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft; Culinary Institute of America
- HCareers: Pastry Chef Job Description
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.