A lot of people will tell you that dessert is the best part of the meal. Behind those tasty meal-enders are the culinary geniuses known as pastry chefs. The pastry chef makes sugar candies, chocolates, cakes, muffins and even doughnuts. While most pastry chefs have a form of formal education, there are plenty working in some of the finest restaurants who have never set foot in a culinary school.
Pastry chefs put in a lot of hard work. They work in a variety of venues, including bakeries, grocery stores, hotels and restaurants. The main purpose of a pastry chef is to turn an array of ingredients into delectable treats for breakfast, lunch and, of course, dessert. Pastry chefs must be creative — after all, they need to take the average dessert and make it exceptional in both taste and appearance.
Duties and Responsibilities
Pastry chefs take on a variety of tasks in the kitchen. Depending on the brigade system used, the pastry chef may oversee pastry cooks and assistants as part of their daily routine. Pastry chefs are also responsible for preparing baked goods, decorating and plating a variety of pastries and desserts and coming up with new recipes. An executive pastry chef is also in charge of monitoring inventory and ordering when necessary. She may also work in cooperation with the kitchen’s executive chef to create a delectable dessert menu.
Formal education is not a requirement for pastry chefs, but for some kitchens it is definitely a preference. Pastry is an art, but also a science – one that is not easy to learn solo. That being said, there are hundreds of pastry chefs working in five-star restaurants who have never attended a culinary school. Those who do not have a formal education will need to provide proof of previous baking and kitchen experience and often will work as entry-level pastry prep cooks or assistants until they receive the necessary amount of hands-on education.
To bake a fine dessert, you need to pay attention to detail, understand ingredients and have quite a bit of patience. Natural artistic abilities are common among pastry chefs, and possessing the ability to create a pastry that is as delightful to the eye as it is to the taste buds is essential. Pastry chefs also need a level of stamina, since most work very early morning hours – typically starting before 5 a.m.
Pastry chefs are paid well for their creativity and artistic abilities. According to HCareers, the average salary for an experienced pastry chef ranges from $30,000 to $50,000. Pastry chefs who own and operate their own shops, however, have the potential to earn a much higher salary. Executive pastry chefs earn a slightly higher wage, ranging from $49,569 to $71,225, according to HCareers.
Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.