How to become a pastry chef
What qualifications do you need to become a pastry chef? Most employers will expect candidates to have undergone training in pastry arts, whether a professional certificate or a bachelor’s degree in Confectionary Arts and Entrepreneurship, which equips graduates with business acumen in addition to technical and practical knowledge.
What are the skills needed to become a pastry chef? Firstly, employers often require proven experience working as a pastry chef, which you will acquire as part of your studies: both pastry courses at Institut Culinaire de France include work placements, an invaluable experience for on-the-job training.
It’s also essential that you have solid culinary techniques and skills and sound knowledge of pastry and ingredients. It’s important to be able to follow recipes diligently, as well as having the creativity and innovation to devise new recipes adapted to seasonal requirements, customer demand and evolving market trends. You may also be required to make products to order for clients and so being able to take and follow orders accurately and to time is key. Being organized and having good planning and preparation skills are valuable assets in the fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen. And being punctual, disciplined and meticulous are all key characteristics of a successful pastry chef.
Added to this, it is important to consider that this can often be a client-facing role. As such, the ability to provide high-quality customer service and listen to customer feedback is a real asset.
Pastry chef job duties
First and foremost, pastry chefs are responsible for the creation, decoration and presentation of desserts including cakes, pastries, desserts and pies. In order to do this, they must maintain up-to-date knowledge about the pastry industry and ingredients. If working in a restaurant, for example, they will need to plan dessert menus and pastries to complement savoury dishes. They will need to devise recipe ideas from scratch and adapt to seasonal ingredients and know-how to clean, prepare and organize ingredients and workstations in the kitchen.
In addition to the core undertaking of product creation, there are also technical, practical and business duties that may be part of the role. General duties include ordering raw ingredients and supplies, keeping an inventory, ensuring the kitchen and its equipment is clean and in proper working order at all times, and that hygiene and food safety protocols and rules are respected.
Quality control is a crucial part of the job. Pastry chefs must verify the conformity of raw ingredients and products throughout the manufacturing process, checking weights and quantities and inspecting the appearance of finished products.
The business management aspect of the role is particularly relevant to pastry chefs when they reach the executive level of their careers, at which point they will oversee a team of junior pastry chefs and other staff members and be in charge of the premises and equipment. Marketing, business development, accounting and administrative tasks will also be key duties.
Pastry chef salary
How much do pastry chefs earn? In France, the average salary for a pastry chef is around €27k, rising to around €45k, with those who have professional qualifications earning more on average than those without. While salaried pastry chefs may start out on the minimum wage, they can go on to earn on average around 2300€ a month in bakeries or up to €4000 a month in fine dining restaurants. Executive pastry chefs with several years in the profession stand to earn beyond this amount, with salaries varying depending on their experience, qualifications, the employer and the role itself.