How To Get A Job As A Pastry Chef

Are you hoping to start a career in baking and pastry? Learn what restaurant managers look for when hiring a pastry chef.

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July 28, 2022 9 min read

Whether you’ve just graduated from pastry school or have spent years baking sweets at home, you may be considering becoming a pastry chef. You may dream of spending your days creating creamy custards for a restaurant crowd or whipping up flaky pastries for a bakery, but first you need to land a position in the pastry field!

With that in mind, it’s helpful to learn what restaurant managers may look for when hiring a pastry chef. Before you fret about not having everything it takes to land your dream position, recognize that a great pastry chef is made, not born. They are a combination of several important ingredients—just like a recipe. If you’re missing one or two elements, that’s okay! You just need to practice the skills needed to become a “perfectly baked” pastry chef.

Start with Kitchen Chemistry Competence

Baking and pastry often require more precision than cooking. Unlike culinary arts where the cook or chef can often taste as they go and alter dishes on the fly, pastry often involves following strict ingredient ratios. You often won’t know if there’s something wrong with a cake or loaf of bread until it comes out of the oven, and by then it could be too late!

Chef holding a sweet oat loaf cut in half

While baking involves artistic skills, it’s rooted in science. Ingredients come together to create a chemical reaction that transforms a dough into a loaf of bread or a batter into a cake. So pastry chefs usually need to prove some technical proficiency in order to land the job. While being able to bake a loaf of challah bread is valuable, knowing why the dough rises and how brushing the loaf with butter and an egg wash can yield better results–making the knowledge of chemistry an integral part of a great finished product.

Escoffier Baking and Pastry Chef Instructor Jen Gross recognizes that by first exploring the science behind recipes, students can then begin exploring advanced techniques. “Understanding all the ins and outs of ingredients and techniques allows you to take your skills to the next level and even allows you more creative freedom to start creating your own recipes,”* Gross says.

To help explore baking techniques, Escoffier baking and pastry students may complete coursework in baking math, sanitation, basic cakes, pies and pastries, menu planning, and much more. This education can prove to the hiring manager that the applicant has baseline knowledge of baking principles. Plus, investing in education can show restaurant managers that you’re serious about a career in pastry.

Escoffier baking and pastry student holding baked bread

Add a Sprinkle of Industry Experience

Some positions in baking and pastry will be entry level. These positions will often be called a “baking assistant” or “pastry cook,” rather than “pastry chef.” But in a high-end restaurant with a robust dessert program, the pastry chef may need many years of experience to be considered.

Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor Anastasia Malone“I think it’s important to have a good grasp of the basics — various mixing methods and refined knife skills, [but] I believe a lot of refined pastry skills are learned in the workplace.”*
Anastasia Malone, Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor

Even if you begin pastry school at Escoffier with no experience, you can have at least one job to put on your resume by the time you graduate. That’s because all Escoffier students must complete a hands-on industry externship before they receive their degree or diploma.

By working in bakeries and kitchens, students can practice their skills and see the kitchen brigade system working in real-time. For some students, the externship position can become a longer-term employment opportunity. For others, it’s an educational stepping stone that moves them one step closer to their end goal.

baker standing at a table with fresh dough in a bakery

Remember—baking and pastry students do not graduate as pastry chefs. Cooks must earn that title through a combination of education and experience. But studying these foundational skills in pastry school may help graduates to progress through their careers as they reach for that ultimate position of pastry chef.

Mix in a Business Mindset

A pastry chef is often in charge of the dessert menu, which goes beyond just the tastiness of the desserts. The dessert menu must be profitable to be sustainable. So the pastry chef has to be able to manage food costs, portion control, and inventory to prevent waste and spoilage.

At Escoffier, Baking & Pastry Arts students can touch on topics like menu design and management, or food and beverage cost control. This coursework may include things like purchasing, receiving, inventory management, and price analysis, which can help graduates design recipes that earn more than they cost.

Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor Anastasia Malone“A pastry chef should be able to ask for help or clarification, communicating comfortably with peers and management.”*
Anastasia Malone, Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor

Pastry chefs may also have a team to manage. So they need to be effective communicators and supervisors who can delegate work and make corrections diplomatically. Escoffier baking and pastry students working toward their associate degree may take Business and Professional Communications, which can help them improve their listening and conflict resolution skills.

Those communication skills aren’t all about delegation, though. It can be just as important to know how to ask for help. Honesty with yourself and with your team can help you continue to thrive and grow as a pastry chef.

“I always like to hire candidates who prioritize teamwork, pull their weight, and help their coworkers,”* says Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor Anastasia Malone and former Pastry Chef at the Five Diamond rated Sandpearl Resort.

Pastry school graduates can continue to build these skills as they progress through their careers.

Don’t Forget Self-Motivation and Dependability

“I can never stress enough how attitude and self-motivation are the skills that cannot be taught, and something a department manager will always look for,”* says Escoffier Pastry Arts Instructor Denise Spooner.

When a manager or leader isn’t available to find solutions, you need to be able to step up and take charge. Also, never underestimate the value of showing up every day, on time and ready to work. And don’t just show up—aim to keep progressing both as an individual and as a team.

Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor Anastasia Malone“I always look for people who are self motivated. In the hotel and restaurant industry, there is usually a limited amount of pastry staff, so it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand.”*
Anastasia Malone, Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor

Top It Off with a Dash of Creativity

Pastry chefs must be able to execute a recipe, but they may have to create their own inventive new desserts as well. Therefore, managers expect pastry chef candidates to have a strong understanding of flavor development as well as the confidence to be creative in the kitchen.

“The knowledge from Escoffier has given me the skills and confidence not only in my baking, but to take my baking and creations to the next level.”*
Trista Besecker, Online Pastry Arts Graduate

In addition to being able to be creative with flavors, pastry chefs must be able to turn desserts into visual masterpieces with the help of intricate piping, delicate icing flowers, and carefully molded chocolate. All this decorative work requires creativity, a deft eye, and the skills to execute these techniques.

Light blue macarons decorated with chocolate on a wooden table

Macarons, made by an Escoffier Online Baking and Pastry student Kaitlin M., exhibit creativity in both flavor and visual appeal

Pastry chefs may also be asked to come up with creative uses for “extras.” Escoffier Executive Chef, Pastry, HROM, and Gen Ed Instructor Anne Lanute explains, “It happens more often than not that an executive chef will come to you and ask if you can do something with a particular ingredient that is either in excess, or may not be fitting in well with the culinary menu. Controlling waste is critical in restaurants, so by being adaptable and creative, you can help expand your offerings while helping control waste and loss within your restaurant.”*

How can applicants prove their creative and decorative chops to hiring managers? As you progress, take plenty of photos of various pastries and desserts to highlight your range of skills and ability to work creatively.

The Recipe for the Perfect Pastry Chef

If you’re worried you don’t have all the components necessary to become a pastry chef, don’t worry. Whether you’ve been baking for years or have just begun exploring the pastry arts, attending baking school may provide you with the skills and experiences you need to make yourself a more valuable candidate to restaurant managers.

Escoffier baking and pastry students can explore how to bake a perfectly risen cake and silky smooth chocolate mousse, but they also discover why these recipes work. With the knowledge and guidance of expert Chef Instructors, bakers and pastry chefs can experiment with recipes and find their own baking styles.

If you hope to one day become a pastry chef, consider enrolling in one of Escoffier’s baking and pastry programs. With programs in Austin, Boulder, and online, pastry students can get their education from almost anywhere in the world and get started on the baking career they’ve been dreaming of!

If you’d like to learn more about baking and pastry careers, try these articles next:

This article was originally published on April 5, 2021, and has since been updated.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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