A pastry chef, also known as a pâtissier, creates food that satisfies our sweet tooth cravings. From cakes to pies, croissants to cupcakes, and cookies to eclairs, a pastry chef puts the magic touch on these to make them taste delicious.
Some pastry chefs choose to open their own bakeries while others work in restaurants, hotels, resorts, and supermarket bakeries. Read on to learn more about a pastry chef, including a job description, their responsibilities, and some data on the average pastry chef's salary.
Before covering a pastry chef's job and responsibilities, let's focus on the difference between pastry and a pastry. Pastry is a dough or paste consisting mostly of flour, shortening, and water. It is baked and often used for the crust of pies and tarts.
In the singular countable form, a pastry is a baked product. It's made from ingredients such as butter, eggs, flour, milk, shortening, sugar, and baking powder.
What Are the Categories of Pastries?
There are five basic categories of pastries:
- Shortcrust pastry, sweet and sturdy, similar to shortbread cookie dough, and used as the base dough of tarts.
- Filo pastry, made in thin sheet and used as casing for many Balkan and Middle Eastern pastries.
- Choux pastry has a thick and sticky texture, creating a crispy outer shell and hollow exterior for fillings.
- Flaky pastry needs gentle hand work and tiny chunks of butter to produce flaky dough for sweet and savory pastries.
- Puff pastry, popular with pastry chefs, has a crisp, delicate, and layered finish often used for pie crusts.
There are two main types of pastries:
- Laminated, when fat is repeatedly folded into the dough during preparation.
- Non-laminated, when fat is cut or rubbed into the flour.
Examples of laminated pastries include croissants, baklava, and strudel. Pie and tart crust are examples of non-laminated pastries.
Pastry chefs from around the world bake pastries to satisfy their customers. Many of them have become internationally popular and are widely available, such as croissants (France), cannolis (Italy), baklava (Greece), strudel (Germany), and Danishes (Denmark).
Cinnamon rolls, bear claws, macarons, tarts, scones, cream puffs, éclairs, pie, and sticky buns are other common pastries.
What Is a Pastry Chef?
A pastry chef, or patissier, bakes a wide variety of desserts in a kitchen within a restaurant, hotel, or bakery.
They create many types of desserts, including cakes, cookies, pies, and other delicious items. It’s one of the types of chefs included in the back of house and reports to the executive chef or sous chef.
Pastry Chef Job Description
Operation of ovens and other machinery is required. They use mathematical knowledge to measure ingredients and chemistry to bake their pastries under the right conditions. They also need managerial skills, especially if they own bakeries and supervise a large staff.
A pastry or dessert chef needs time management skills to effectively prepare their items and handle orders from customers. They should make enough pastries to meet demand on any given day.
Depending on the type of pastry the customer wants, they might need more time to prepare those specialized orders. It's also vital to manage purchases and keep a sufficient level of inventory. A pastry chef should have knowledge of an inventory control system to make this task easier.
Pastry Chef Responsibilities
The specific tasks depend on the job location, whether a kitchen in a hotel or a small bakery. In general, they are responsible for stocking ingredients, recipe costing, and managing the pastry station or department. A pastry chef should also keep in mind inventory control, especially at their station.
They are also required to plan production and create seasonal offerings. It's important to demonstrate creativity by producing new desserts for the menu to keep customers interested.
Many restaurants, hotels, and resorts hire pastry chefs to bake delicious desserts for their patrons and special events. Pastry chefs also work in bakeries, including supermarkets with bakery departments, and for caterers.
The hours required and skills needed vary depending on the position and the size of the team. They commonly work overnight or very early morning hours to prepare bread and pastries for sale when shops and restaurants open in the morning.
Some pastry chefs specialize in one area of pastry-making, while others create a variety of baked goods. If a pastry chef owns a bakery, they will sell cakes, cookies, and pies or focus on one type of pastry. If a chef owns an artisan craft shop, they might specialize in different kinds of bread. Others may produce a variety of bread and sweets to give their customers a larger selection of pastries.
How to Become a Pastry Chef
It’s recommended to do some research on the industry and focus on a specialty before starting on your career path. There are many areas of specialization, from baking bread to making candy, so choose which one you would like to do daily.
Learn some recipes and create pastries at home while also reading books and watching cooking shows. Ask a friend to taste your creations and provide feedback for improving your pastries. If your high school offers a home economics class, sign up for it to learn some basics about baking and cooking.
Pastry Chef School
After you earn your high school degree, you will have the following options to consider for pastry chef education:
- Complete a certification program, which usually lasts one year and focuses on entry-level training and providing essential skills.
- Attend a culinary school to earn an associate degree, which takes two years and provides you with technical skills and education.
- Apply to a university and earn a bachelor's degree, which allows you to work part-time at a bakery or supermarket.
After finishing one of these programs, apply to work in a kitchen to gain experience and practical skills.
Some people begin work in a kitchen after high school, but it’s beneficial to receive professional training and certification before starting your career. It may benefit to start as a line cook before gradually moving up the kitchen ladder.
Pastry Chef Salary
As of December 2021, the average pastry chef's salary in the United States stands at $39,540 or $19/hour. The majority of them earn between $13.94/hour (25th percentile) and $23.56/hour (75th percentile).
As with other chef positions, the average pastry chef salary varies widely, depending on location, skill level, and experience. Many have the potential to receive a higher salary as they gain experience and skills, achieve promotions, and earn certifications. Some even rise to the level of Michelin star chefs and achieve national and global acclaim.
There are many opportunities to work as a pastry chef in the United States and abroad. Many restaurants, hotels, resorts, country clubs, and cruise ships look to employ pastry chefs. Some open their own bakeries or smaller businesses and supply small shops or caterers with pastries.
Pastry chefs who are unemployed due to the pandemic are working from home to provide pastries to interested buyers. These opportunities are providing good income for pastry chefs who do what they love for a living.