Become a Pastry Chef

Want to learn how to become a pastry chef? Interested in attending a baking and pastry school? Do you love baking and making desserts? Want to learn how to create intricate and tasty pastries? Considering a career in the food industry as a chef or baker? Here’s the information you need to know to become a successful pastry chef.

Role of a Pastry Chef

Becoming a pastry chef requires a lot of dedication and discipline. Pastry chefs often start work very early in the morning (or in the middle of the night, depending on how you look at it). Depending on whether you work in a bakery or a restaurant, a pastry chef may also test out new recipes for breads and desserts, and also plan menus. For more information on the responsibilities of a pastry chef, click here.

When working in a brigade kitchen, a pâtissier (or pastry chef) makes all of the desserts, ranging from hot desserts, cold desserts, frozen desserts, pastries, pâtisseries, candies, etc. Boulangers (or bakers) and glaciers (cold dessert chefs) work under the pastry chef. Learn more about the different chef de partie job descriptions for pastry chefs.

Chef Training: Choosing a Pastry School

Request information from as many baking and pastry schools as possible. Most schools will send you free information or put you in contact with a school representative who will explain everything from the different baking and pastry degrees and certificates, the specific courses in the pastry arts program, and practical details like tuition and financial aid.

Furthermore, it is de rigueur in today’s world for cooking and culinary schools to have their own websites, which can provide you with valuable information.

To learn more about becoming a pastry chef, it would be prudent to ask recent graduates for advice when choosing a pastry school or baking program. What did they like about the school? Which were their favorite cooking classes and why? Is one pastry and baking program better than another? Do different culinary chef schools teach different techniques? If you want to become a French pastry chef or exclusively make wedding cakes, make sure that schools you are applying to offer training programs that suit your needs.

If you are interested in many aspects of the culinary and food industry, you might also want to look into pastry chef schools which offer a range of training programs, from pastry arts technique to restaurant management, for example.

Do Some Research on Pastry Arts

The Internet is rife with information about becoming a pastry chef (take this site, for example).

Check out cooking and food industry forums and message boards where people can ask questions and post answers about their experience working as chefs. This is a good way to find other people who are looking to start a pastry chef career and have the same questions that you do. You can also learn about which are the top pastry schools and chef training programs in your area, or, if you’re willing to relocate, around the country — and even abroad (there are a number of baking and pastry schools in London and Paris, for example).

Ask Other Pastry Chefs

Some of the best advice we can give you on your journey to become a pastry chef is to talk to people who currently work, or who have previously worked, as pastry chefs. Ask them all of the questions you can think of, even if they seem trivial or show how much of a neophyte you might be when it comes to the field of pastry arts and baking. Even the most experienced of pastry chefs started out where you are today and we’re sure they would have welcomed the advice, in retrospect.

One of the difficulties when exploring a new career path is that you might not know which questions to ask or what to look for in a potential pastry chef job. If your only experience in the food industry is as a diner in a restaurant, you’ve probably never seen a chef cook an entrée or prepare a dessert. You may frequent the local bakery to by bread and the occasional pastry (or French pâtisserie), but do you know if the bread was baked on the premises or if it’s always the same baker who makes the bread that you buy?

Seek advice from pastry chefs who work in the type of place you might like to work yourself. For example, if you want to work as a pastry chef in a restaurant, we would recommend stopping by a number of different restaurants — the best time would be when they are just opening, since they’re likely to not be very busy — and ask the host if they have an in-house pastry chef or baker. If they do, see if you can get their contact information or set up an informal interview or meeting. Explain that you’re interested in a career as a pastry chef and would like some advice before committing to applying to pastry schools and spending the money on a pastry arts training program.

Another option would be to inquire after a meal where you had a dessert you particularly liked. Or at your favorite bakery. If you have nothing buy praise for the chocolate éclairs and state your interest in learning more about what goes on behind the scenes, you should easily find a few bakers and pastry chefs who would be more than willing to spend a few minutes talking with you about their jobs.

Also talk with experienced chefs who work in other types of establishments. You might be surprised to find that you would rather work for a bakery (or boulangerie) than in a restaurant or hotel. This also allows you to get a better idea of the career options available to you once you become a pastry chef.

Remember to be gracious and show genuine interest.