November 1, 2021

Are you crazy for croissants, bananas for buttercream, or mad for macarons?

Congratulations! You found something that makes your heart sing. But if you’re going to turn baking and pastry into your career, you may need to know what to do with those tasty treats from a business perspective. As it turns out, there are many different career opportunities out there for bakers and pastry chefs. Start down this path, and here’s where you could end up!

What Is Baking & Pastry?

Baking and pastry is the culinary sector that includes baked goods and desserts like breads, cakes, pies, breakfast pastries, chocolate, and other sweet and savory baked goods. It’s distinct from culinary arts, which usually includes the food items on an entrée plate like proteins, vegetables, and grains.

Baking and pastry is also approached differently from the culinary arts. Most baking work is done in advance for future customers who will enjoy those treats later in the day or possibly the next day. Conversely, a great deal of culinary arts cooking is done in real time while the customer is waiting at the table or at the counter.

Baking and pastry also requires a strict level of exactitude. Baking recipes must be followed to the letter in order for crucial chemical processes to occur. That’s why baking and pastry could be an excellent career choice for detail-oriented people.

Escoffier Senior Lead Chef Instructor Anne Lanute“Pastry students and pastry chefs tend to be finicky about precision and accuracy and having everything weighed and measured.”
Anne Lanute, Escoffier Online Baking & Pastry Arts Executive Chef

Pastry Chef adds the finishing touches to a chocolate pastry

Baking & Pastry Career Opportunities

Once you know the ins and outs of breads, croissants, chocolate, and other sweets, how can you put your baking skills to use? Here are a few of the career options in baking and pastry.

Baker

No surprise here! Becoming a baker is one of the obvious career options on the table. But what does the life of a baker actually look like?

It often involves early mornings. If you’re baking breakfast breads and pastries, they need to be in the oven early. So a baker’s day could start as early as 4:00 or 5:00 AM.

But not all bakers work in bakeries. Some work in restaurants, making bread for lunch or dinner service. They may also make sandwich bread or dessert pastries. And others work in wholesale bakeries, where they’re preparing items with a longer shelf life. So early mornings don’t always go hand-in-hand with the baker’s life.

Some bakers also run their own bakeries. Their days may be split between baking and business tasks like managing employees, experimenting with recipes, receiving orders, and paying bills.

Male and female bakers kneading dough

Specialty Baker

Within the greater “baker” umbrella, specialty bakers focus on a narrow area of expertise.

Specialty bakers may niche down to a specific dietary restriction, like vegan, gluten-free, or plant-based baking. Others may specialize in baked goods from a certain country or cultural heritage. There are Jewish bakeries, Mexican bakeries, Polish bakeries, French bakeries, and many more.

Another way to specialize is to focus on a certain type of baked treat. There are shops that only do macarons, or some that only do cookies or croissants or crêpes. Niching down with a bakery or pastry shop lets you become the “go to” expert at that one thing.

Escoffier Senior Lead Chef Instructor Anne Lanute“A common misconception is that if you’re going to pastry school, you can really only work in a bakery. Bakeries are just one place. Restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, chocolateries… there are a lot of specialty-focused places to go.”
Anne Lanute, Escoffier Online Baking & Pastry Arts Executive Chef

Pastry Cook or Chef

“Baking and pastry” are often grouped together. But while they share some traits, they’re not necessarily the same thing. Baking refers to baked goods, like cakes and breads. Pastry, while it usually includes some baking, refers to a broader range of desserts.

In a restaurant, a pastry chef may make plated desserts that include a baked component, cooked fruit, chocolate, ice cream, or a sweet sauce. The pastry chef is responsible for each component of the dish. Pastry chefs may also work in bakeries, making tarts, pies, and laminated doughs like croissants or puff pastries.

Pastry Chef vs. Pastry Cook: What’s the Difference?

Pastry chef: the chef in charge of the pastry department. Responsible for the dessert menu and recipes. The pastry chef may be the only person in the department, or they may supervise a team.

Pastry cook: a pastry employee, supervised by the pastry chef.

Chocolatier

A chocolatier is a specialist who makes desserts and confections out of various types of chocolate. These could include truffles, fudge, bonbons, chocolate bars, and more. They may also make intricate centerpieces of chocolate molded into animals, flowers, and fruits.

A chocolatier must know how to perfectly temper and mold different types of chocolate for the desired finish — whether smooth and glossy or more textured. This expert can work in a bakery or pastry shop, restaurant, or specialty chocolate shop. They could also specialize in centerpieces, and contract with caterers or event companies for special events.

Close-up photo of seven chocolate truffles

Wedding Cake Baker & Designer

Wedding cakes are their own specialty niche within baking and pastry. Wedding cake bakers must be masters of sponge, baking delicious moist layers that will both taste delicious and layer well into a sturdy tiered masterpiece.

They also need to have a great eye for design. Wedding cakes are custom showpieces, and they must look beautiful and appropriate for that particular wedding.

“I shouldn’t be able to take your wedding cake down the street to Sally Jessy Raphael’s wedding, and have your cake work at their wedding. Your cake should be for your wedding and your wedding alone.”Steve Konopelski, Wedding Cake Designer and Escoffier Baking & Pastry Chef Instructor

Wedding cake by Chef Steve Konopelski

Wedding cake by Chef Steve Konopelski

Baking & Pastry Blogger or Writer

If you love baking and you love writing, you could enjoy a career as a baking blogger or writer. Baking bloggers spend their days experimenting with new recipes and sharing them with readers. Blogs may be monetized through ads on a specific platform, or through affiliate links that earn the blogger a commission when a reader buys a recommended product.

Baking and pastry writers could also work for magazines or publications that highlight cooking and lifestyle topics like Good Housekeeping, Bake, or Bon Appétit.

The Path to Your Dream Baking & Pastry Career

How do you get from “total novice” to “baking career of your dreams”?

Learn Everything You Can From Experienced Bakers

The best place to start could be with a baking education. Baking and pastry is both an art and a precise science. In baking and pastry school at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, students explore the roles of each component in a baking recipe, like the fat, rising agent, binder, sweetener, and flour. They complete coursework in custards and dessert sauces, different breads, confiserie, patisserie, and chocolate. In school, some students even discover that they have a passion for a type of baking they’d never even heard of before!

Concerned about balancing work and school? You don’t have to quit your job or move to a new city to get an excellent education in baking and pastry. With Escoffier’s online degrees and diplomas, you can explore and hone your craft from your own kitchen, right in your own home.

Escoffier online student kneading dough in a metal bowl

Get Plenty of Experience

After completing your formal education, the next step is to practice (and practice some more!). The best way to perfect your pastry and baking skills is to get out there and do the work — not once, not twice, but hundreds of times. This is the kind of experience you can only get on the job.

Look for an expert in the type of baking you wish to pursue, and then soak up everything they’re willing to teach you. Working for and with experts can help you to pick up their good habits and perfect your craft.

Prove Your Bona Fides With Certifications

As you progress along your career, many bakers and pastry chefs elect to get advanced certifications that validate their skills and expertise. Industry groups like the American Culinary Federation and the Retail Bakers of America offer industry certifications that prove a baker or pastry chef has achieved a high level of proficiency at their craft.

One Industry, So Many Career Choices

Baking and pastry may appear to be a narrow field at first glance, but it can offer many exciting career opportunities. Whether you want to be up early at a bakery, stay up late at a restaurant, or manage your own schedule as a pastry blogger, you can create the career of your dreams within the world of baking and pastry.

Get in touch with Escoffier to talk about the next steps toward a flour-filled, chocolate-dipped career in baking!

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