In this article you will find out how to become a pastry chef as well as advice from Le Cordon Bleu Master Chefs in the UK. We will also discuss the kind of training, experience and skills needed in order to pursue this rewarding career as pâtissier.
What's it like to work as a pastry chef?
Pastry chefs or Pâtissiers enjoy creative freedom in their careers despite the challenges that comes with being a chef. They work with other staff within the kitchen to plan dessert menus to accompany the rest of the menu pleasantly, they also use their experience to make and test new desserts and pastries.
Job Duties of a Pastry Chef
Pastry chefs regularly work early mornings and spend some time sourcing ingredients, keeping track of supplies as well as ensuring the kitchen abides by the health and safety regulations. Pâtissiers use a range of kitchen equipment and ingredients to bake and make desserts to meet customer needs on a daily basis. They also use their scientific skills to ensure the right chemical reactions take place during the process of baking and making pastries. Pastry chefs often communicate with their customers in order to come up with suitable desserts for special occasions such as wedding cakes. There are different types of pastry chefs, some work in diverse industries such as bakeries, cafés, events and hotels, also some experienced Pâtissiers may have the role of training and supervising staff members.
Some responsibilities of a Pastry Chef:
Creating, testing and evaluating new pastry and dessert recipes. The pastry chef will often consult the executive chef to ensure the desserts are in line with all other menu items. Depending of the business, the pastry chef will also be in charge of the preparation of all baked goods including all type of breads.
Keeping a budget for the pastry department as well as being responsible for inventory and cost control.
Ordering food and supplies for the creation of his/her dessert menu items and for running the kitchen.
May be required to train or supervise other kitchen workers who may be involved in the preparation of dessert items.
Ability to work in a team-driven environment, take direction, offer direction and assist with problem solving.
Continuously develop and research recipes to keep the dessert menu appealing to customers.
What does it take to become a pastry chef?
There are many skills and qualities that pastry chefs need to have in order to be skilful in their career path. They have a very good eye for detail to ensure the desserts and pastries are aesthetically pleasing for consumers and meets the brief for the occasion. What’s more pastry chefs are good at making measurements to ensure the right chemical reactions are taking place. Below, we will discuss just three of the many qualities pastry chefs possess.
Creative Pastry chefs are creative individuals, they have the opportunity to make up their own decorative designs with a range of resources such as using icing or marzipan. Pâtissiers must be open to incorporating new food items into menus, and improving older recipes. Creativity and imagination will keep customers coming back. Chef Julie Walsh, Head Pâtisserie Chef at Le Cordon Bleu London advises that “whether you’re a Michelin-starred chef or a kitchen porter, you’ll never stop learning. Pastry chefs are always looking for the next inspiration to fuel their creativity.”
Physically fit Pastry chefs tend to have good stamina as they stand on their feet for long hours developing recipes and preparing desserts, some typically work 12 hour days. In order to succeed at their job they keep a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Patient Patience is a quality that pastry chefs need to possess as it takes a while to prepare and wait for the desserts to cook fully. Preparing a multi-tiered wedding cake, or a soufflé, requires patience. Becoming irritable or frustrated may cause to rush the process and compromise the integrity of the food. It is important for pastry chefs to remain calm and confident in any situation. They also have to be good at multitasking to ensure the pastries have the right tastes and textures.
What is the career progression of a pastry chef?
It is often recommended to begin your career with an apprenticeship or an internship. As a pastry chef you can then decide to work as part of a restaurant / hotel team or to open your own pastry business. As member of a large patisserie department within a restaurant or hotel, you will start as a commis pâtissier, before becoming chef de partie to then progress to Chef and finally Executive chef.
What can be the specialities of a pastry chef?
Confiserie or Candy making The confiseur prepares all of the petits fours, dry and fresh fruit candies, candied fruit, praline,nougatine, pastillage and sugar work centrepieces. Pastry chef specialised in sugar artistry will use modern techniques applied to showpieces and sugar creation including casting, pulling, and blowing as well as cold sugar based preparations such as royal icing and pastillage.
Chocolate The chocolatier works only with chocolate. He or she makes truffles and bonbons, showpieces and speciality items for banquets and special events. Tempering, ganache, piping designs, moulding, shaping and rolling or coating are important techniques to become a chocolatier.
Ice cream The glacier produces all types of ice cream and other frozen preparations. The glacier may also be responsible for ice sculptures.
Bread The boulanger or bake is responsible for all breads as well as some basic viennoiserie preparations such as puff pastry, croissants, dough and sweet doughs.
Decorator The décorateur (decorator) prepare showpieces and speciality cakes in larger restaurant or for specialist pastry boutique.
Can you be a pastry chef without a degree?
Using on-the-job training only, is it possible to become a successful pastry chef?
To become a professional pastry chef, it isn’t compulsory to complete formal education. However, it can be beneficial to obtain professional traineeship that will prepare you for the role. Training as a pastry chef can enable you to learn key information and skills to in the competitive industry. A combination of the right qualifications and experience are vital to success. Le Cordon Bleu London offers the Diplôme de Pâtisserie course which is a celebrated qualification in many countries across the world. It has three different levels: basic, intermediate and superior. The Diplôme de Pâtisserie programme is 9 months long or can be taken as an intensive course for 6 months. In this programme you will learn classic and contemporary pâtisserie skills as well as develop your creativity in dessert decoration. You may be interested in integrating this diploma with Culinary Management for the Diplôme de Pâtisserie with Culinary Management or study it alongside the Diplôme de Boulangerie. You will be taught through hands-on lessons and demonstrations by our professional Pâtisserie Chefs who have worked in some of the world’s finest hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.
Get practical work experience
Gaining the right experience as well as training can aid in allowing you to find out what kind of field within the pastry profession you’d like to specialise in. For example pastry chefs can choose to specialise in sugar or chocolate. It is also good to take up an internship in order to obtain valuable work experience and get used to the environment of the kitchen and the role of the pastry chef and others in the kitchen. The Internship Pathway programme allows students to gain real work experience by means of a 3 month internship placement. Students also have an opportunity to gain expert assistance in CV writing and tips for their career.