Pastry Chef Career Paths
From kneading dough for a morning Danish, to icing a child's birthday cake, to dipping strawberries in chocolate for a romantic evening, pastry chef careers involve a wide range of ingredients and culinary techniques that capture the imagination of the most creative and skilled chefs.
When you consider a pastry chef's job description, you'll discover a few essential traits you'll need in order to succeed. Perhaps most importantly, attention to detail and creativity. Baking and pastry require a fine balance of specific ingredients that come together just so, in order to achieve the desired result. And you'll have plenty of opportunity to explore your creativity and artistic ability—whether you're decorating cakes or plating fancy desserts.
Most successful pastry chef careers follow this general path sequence:
- Get a degree from pastry chef school
- Complete an apprenticeship under a master pastry chef or baker
- Build a professional reputation working in an entry-level baker or pastry chef job
- Get promoted to the job of head baker or pastry chef supervising the kitchen and staff
- Mentor the next generation of pastry chefs and bakers
- Landing a head baker or pastry chef job can take many years of hard work and dedication to accomplish, but the rewards are well worth it.
Chefs with an entrepreneurial spirit may opt to open their own baking or catering business and work for themselves. Owning and operating your own business is a time consuming but potentially profitable opportunity. You must be able to juggle multiple tasks at the same time, such as planning the menu, dealing with clients, and ordering supplies and equipment. Read more about starting your own baking company to see if you have what it takes.
Some bakers and pastry chefs choose to specialize even further in a specific technique or food—becoming masters in a particular niche:
- Wedding Cake Baker: Wedding cake design and creation is one of the most profitable pastry chef careers. Wedding cake bakers must not only be knowledgeable of baking techniques, but they also have to be skilled with frosting and other edible decorations. Another challenge of wedding cake design is maintaining the cake's structure over several hours. Wedding cake bakers work for catering firms or run their own cake baking businesses.
- Bread Artisan: Artisan bread bakers complete advanced training in the art of selecting ingredients, mixing dough and applying baking techniques. They typically handcraft each loaf of bread to ensure the best taste, texture and quality. Artisan bakers generally work in specialty bakeries or operate their own baking businesses.
- Chocolatier: A chocolatier is a pastry chef who specializes in using chocolate to create cakes, confections and other sugary concoctions. Chocolatiers have an immense knowledge and understanding about the chemical principles of chocolate and must react quickly to changes in temperature, weather or chocolate texture in order to maintain the flavor of their desserts. Chocolatiers are often employed by high-end restaurants, specialty food shops and commercial chocolate companies.