A pastry chef is in charge of all of the baking and desserts in a kitchen. It is a demanding job, usually requiring long hours in a very stressful work environment. The pastry chef is usually one of the first to arrive at a restaurant in the morning, kneading to get the dough rising for bread and the other pastries for the day started. Despite the long hours and challenges, it can be a very rewarding and lucrative job, if a person is committed to making a career out of it.
Anyone who wants to become a pastry chef should first read and learn as much as they can about baking and working in a professional bakery or restaurant. There are a lot of fantastic recipe books and pastry and bread guides available. Learn as much as you possibly can before applying to colleges or to restaurants. Perfect the skills needed to make a loaf of bread, a perfect pie crust, and puff pastry dough. You should also learn the basics of cake decorating. Decorating courses are available through some craft and cooking stores, or may be available through a community college or adult education program.
There are two ways to prepare to become a pastry chef. The first is the traditional path of an apprenticeship. After learning as much as you can about baking and pastry, you should visit local bakeries and high scale restaurants to see if they are looking for an assistant pastry chef. Another option would be to volunteer to work for very little pay, or even for free, in exchange for getting a chance to train with the resident pastry chef. This can provide you with the skills and experience you will need to be a pastry chef in a relatively short amount of time.
The other option is to attend a culinary arts school. There are culinary schools all over the world, many of the best in Europe, but there are also a lot of great pastry programs in the United States. The Culinary Arts Institute, with campuses in both New York and California, is considered one of the best. Many community colleges and private universities also have programs that can help you to become a pastry chef. A culinary degree may take longer than an apprenticeship, but you will get a more complete education and the skills you will need to tackle any pastry challenge later on in your career.
After an apprenticeship or receiving a culinary arts degree, the next step to becoming a pastry chef is to get a job in a bakery or restaurant. You may still not be paid much, but this will get you started in your career. Be available to work extra hours, and put in as much effort and enthusiasm as you possibly can. This will prove to the head pastry chef that you are committed to making a career out of baking, and could lead to you getting more responsibilities around the kitchen.
Once you have learned all that you can as an assistant, it is time to take the next step in your goal to become a pastry chef. Get involved in the local restaurant scene, and let other restaurant owners know that you are looking for a position as a pastry chef. Type up and mail a resume, along with any letters of recommendation you might have from previous professors or head pastry chefs that you have worked with. Be able to showcase how you would make an excellent addition to their team.
A pastry chef is one of the true artists in a kitchen. It takes time to build up the experience and reputation that can earn you a head pastry chef position. During this time, work as hard as you can to improve your skills. A quality pastry chef is a sought-after commodity in the culinary world. Prove that you are a great catch, and you may be able to get job offers from some of the best restaurants in your area.