Pastry chef training will enable you to perform a diverse array of tasks from preparing baked goods for a grocery store chain, restaurant, or neighborhood bakery through cake decoration and the creation of mouth-watering desserts for expensive restaurants and catering companies. No matter your specialty, a career of a pastry chef is a sweet choice!

Pastry chefs direct and oversee pastry cooks, keep their area of the kitchen well organized, track inventory and order supplies. Pastry chefs are highly skilled workers who blend the technical aspects of cooking with the creativity of an artist in developing new recipes. They are also responsible for maintaining health and safety standards by ensuring that all fresh food is stored properly, and that work surfaces, dishes and utensils are clean and sanitized. Many pastry chefs earn a highly regarded reputation because of the quality and creativeness of the pastries they serve.

Career Outlook

Job prospects for pastry chefs are expected to be good through 2018; however there will be strong competition for these jobs at upscale restaurants that generally pay a higher salary. Although job growth will account for a good number of job openings, the majority of vacancies will arise from the need to replace pastry chefs who leave the profession due to retirement or career change. The fast pace, long hours, irregular schedule are the primary reasons for high turnover in the industry.

Advancement opportunities into senior and supervisory roles are dependent on work experience and gaining advanced certification through the American Culinary Federation (ACF).  Pastry chefs may start their own business as caterers, personal chefs, or open their own bakery. Others become instructors in culinary training programs, consultants, or even sales representatives for major manufacturers.

Education

Most pastry chefs have prior experience in the food service or hospitality industry. Many have attended culinary training school and participated in internships or apprenticeship programs to acquire the skills necessary to obtain employment in a variety of establishments.

While very experienced chefs may become pastry chefs with only a high school diploma, entry level pastry chefs will need to obtain formal training to be competitive in obtaining entry-level employment. Training to become a pastry chef may be obtained in two and four year colleges, vocational programs, or culinary arts schools. A growing number of would-be pastry chefs are enrolling in professional culinary institutes, as well as 2 or 4-year colleges with majors in hospitality or culinary arts. Some of the larger hotel and restaurants also offer their own in-house training and job placement programs for pastry chefs. Pastry chefs who wish to work in high-end dining establishments will need to acquire many years of training and experience.

Students enrolled in culinary training programs will spend much time in the kitchen learning to prepare different pasties and desserts. They will learn the proper use of various cooking utensils, how to prepare different types of desserts and pastries, as well as the care and maintenance of kitchen equipment. Training programs will also include coursework in nutrition, menu planning, portion control, proper food storage, sanitation and public health regulations, as well as purchasing and inventory methods. Additional courses may be offered in food service management, computerized bookkeeping and inventory software. Most formal training schools also require students to participate in an internship or apprenticeship in a commercial kitchen.

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) accredits programs in culinary education. Accreditation by the ACF Accreditation Commission attests that the program has met minimum standards and competencies with read to faculty, curriculum, placement, and student support services.

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Certification

Certification of pastry chefs is granted by the ACF. Certification standards are based on a combination of work experience and education, along with passing both a written and practical exam. The purpose of the certification exams is to objectively evaluate a candidate’s knowledge and skills to determine if they meet standards of the ACF.

Although certification is not required in any state, including California, it can attest to your accomplishments, as well as lead to career advancement and higher salaries. From the Web site of the ACF:

What certification means to an employer:

  • Your skills and culinary expertise have reached a set benchmark
  • You are well versed in culinary nutrition and food safety and sanitation
  • You understand the responsibilities of culinary supervisory management
  • You recognize the importance of high standards for food preparation
  • You take charge of your professional development and career

Those who meet all certification requirements of the ACF will be awarded the credential Certified Pastry Culinairan (CPC) an entry level designation.  There are also come additional advanced certifications that you can earn from ACF.

Continuing Education

As per the ACF:

To maintain your ACF certification, you are required to earn a minimum of 80 continuing education hours (CEHs) during the five-year certification period. CEHs are experiences that assist in the development or enhancement of the knowledge and skills directly related to the individual’s professional occupation.

It is important to join your local chapter as membership can offer significant opportunities to network with colleagues and industry professionals, as well as obtain valuable leads on new employment.

Salary of a Pastry Chef

The salaries of pastry chefs vary widely depending on geographic location and type of employer. Earnings are generally the highest within upscale restaurants and hotels, and in large urban cities and resort areas.

As per Salary.com the median annual salary of an Assistant Pastry Chef in Los Angeles, CA as of November 2011 is $42.527 with the highest 10 percent earning $71,096 and the lowest 10 percent earning $27,525. In the smaller town of San Mateo, CA, the median earnings of Assistant Pastry Chefs is $41.190, with the highest 10 percent earning $59,306 and the lowest 10 percent earning $26.722.

View a list of culinary arts schools in California >>