Dessert and Pastry Chef: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a dessert and pastry chef. Learn about educational requirements, job responsibilities, career outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Baking & Pastry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Dessert and Pastry Chef?

Dessert and pastry chefs use their artistic skills to create delicious and beautiful desserts for restaurants, hotels, catering companies and bakeries. They will check the quality of their ingredients and desserts, prepare equipment, create the dough and bake their dessert. They will then finish their products with glazes or decorative icings. Dessert and pastry chefs may also oversee other cooks and food preparers in the kitchen. See the following chart for more details about becoming a dessert and pastry chef.

Degree Required None required; certificate, associate and bachelor's degree programs available
Education Field of Study Culinary arts
Key Responsibilities Creating cakes and pastries, managing equipment, purchasing supplies
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% for all chefs and head cooks*
Average Salary (2015) $45,920 for all chefs and head cooks*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a Dessert and Pastry Chef Do?

Dessert and pastry chefs, also known as patisserie chefs or patissiers, work in numerous establishments, including commercial bakeries, grocery store bakery departments and banquet halls. In restaurant and industrial kitchens, you'll often work under the direction of the executive chef or the sous chef. In some larger establishments, you may be an executive pastry chef who supervises other pastry chefs as they prepare your menu creations.

If you choose to work in a bakery, you'll likely be self-employed or work with executive pastry chefs to create wedding cakes, seasonal baked goods and cultural pastries. Your duties may include researching and experimenting with new flavors and techniques, budgeting ingredients, and ensuring the quality of ingredients and cooking utensils.

What Can I Expect From This Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment opportunities for chefs, including dessert and pastry chefs, were anticipated to see about 9% growth from 2014-2024, which is faster than average (www.bls.gov). This is also the case for bakers in industrial factories and grocers. This means you can anticipate strong competition for pastry chef positions, especially in high-end restaurants. Those with the most experience will likely have the greatest job opportunities.

In 2015, the BLS also stated that head chefs made an average annual salary of $45,920. Those working for government agencies, travel and reservation services and scientific research and development earned average salaries of greater than $60,000 per year, though jobs in those industries were less common.

How Do I Prepare For This Career?

Certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree programs are available in culinary arts. Be sure to pick an accredited culinary institute or a college that has a culinary arts department. These programs focus on working in a professional kitchen. You'll learn about food management, budgeting and purchasing, sanitation, food preparation, safety, menu planning, catering and baking. Within these classes, you'll develop an understanding of pastry arts and begin experimenting with your own creations in test kitchens. Supplemental courses in chemistry, math, management, business and nutrition may benefit you in the workplace or in advancing your career into business ownership.

The American Culinary Federation offers four certifications for pastry chefs (www.acfchefs.org). You can seek certification as a Certified Pastry Culinarian, a Certified Working Pastry Chef, a Certified Executive Pastry Chef or a Certified Master Pastry Chef.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related jobs in the food industry include cook, food service manager and food preparation worker. Cooks do not require formal education, but they may undergo an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. They prepare and cook all kinds of foods for a variety of establishments. Food service managers coordinate the daily operations of restaurants and oversee the staff. They need a high school diploma or equivalent. Food preparation workers follow directions of chefs, food service managers or cooks to prepare a variety of foods, and they do not require any formal education.

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