January 22, 2016

The Sweet Life of The Pastry Chef

Your culinary education may lead you to a career as a pastry chef.

Your culinary education may lead you to a career as a pastry chef.

If you are attending culinary academy, you have probably given some thought to the specific career path you hope to pursue. While you may dream of someday becoming the executive chef at a major restaurant, there are other rewarding paths to follow in professional cooking. Pastry chefs have an important role to play in the kitchen that calls for unique skills, expert knowledge and exceptional organization. If you love preparing delicious desserts and learning the scientific principles behind their flavors, this position might be right for you.

Learn more about the necessary training and the daily tasks of pastry chefs to see if this might be a path you want to explore further:

How to become a pastry chef
Learning to make desserts at a professional level requires extensive training and a great deal of practice. Hcareers noted that a pastry chef’s work calls for an understanding of the scientific concepts involved, which you can develop in culinary school courses on the baking and pastry arts. Moreover, these classes will teach you the basics of preparing crusts, combining flavors and ensuring that the baked goods coming out of your oven are consistently delectable.

Kriss Harvey of The Bazaar described his own training to the Los Angeles Times.

“Every day for a year, I was making tart shells a little larger than the size of a nickel over and over again,” Harvey said. “The best pastry chefs know this is how you get good at something. It’s like being a bodybuilder. You lift and lift and lift.”

“It’s like being a bodybuilder. You lift and lift and lift.”

The next step calls for the real-world experience in preparing large quantities of desserts on a daily basis. You will find out whether the life of the pastry chef is right for you during an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. This will also reveal what kind of work environment you prefer. Pastry chefs may find positions in a restaurant kitchen, but they also might thrive at a bakery or patisserie

The importance of precision
Pastry chefs stand out from other members of the kitchen staff in their cooking methods and often in their personalities as well. Other chefs may decide on their proportions of ingredients at a glance, tasting and adjusting flavors as they go. In baking, on the other hand, it is essential to understand the chemical interactions involved in every stage of the process and get the quantities of each element exactly right.

Consequently, successful pastry chefs plan out their dishes in painstaking detail, readying their ingredients and testing their ideas out in advance. Writing for Vice, New York City-based pastry chef Fabian Von Hauske commented on how these practices reveal a major difference between those in his position and other cooking professionals.

“Most pastry chefs tend to posses an incredibly organized and precise temperament,” Von Hauske explained. “We’re much less about being spontaneous in our cooking, because pastry has to be exact. It’s science.”

Preparing fresh bread daily often requires reporting to work early.Preparing fresh bread daily often requires reporting to work early.

Scheduling
Like all kitchen staff, pastry chefs often have to work long hours on assembling their tasty creations. However, one reason that the position appeals to many culinary school graduates is that it offers a very different schedule from other cooking jobs.

Speaking to Thrillist, Zak Miller of Coquette in New Orleans estimated that his day is about 70 percent preparation and just 30 percent service. This is the reverse of other restaurant chefs, meaning that when savory chefs are just preparing their stations for the bustle of dinner service, the desserts are already being finished off and plated. Pastry chefs work hard to get their dishes exactly right, but they do not deal with the same hectic rush at mealtimes as the rest of the kitchen and can usually count on a more regular schedule.

On the other hand, new pastry chefs may have to grow accustomed to waking up in the wee hours. The Reluctant Gourmet pointed out that pastry chefs may begin work as early as 3 a.m., and in restaurants they may stay up to 12 hours.

If you are thinking about pursuing the job of a pastry chef, these factors are an important consideration. A career in preparing fresh bread, delicious cakes and inventive pastries can be extremely rewarding. However, it calls for training extensively and perhaps also giving up your nightlife.