How Do I Become a Dessert Chef?

Research what it takes to become a dessert chef. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook 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 Chef?

Dessert chefs, also called pastry chefs, play leadership roles in food service establishments. They may work in dessert-specific bakeries or oversee dessert preparation in a full-service restaurant. They are heavily involved in the planning of dessert menus, researching and testing new recipes in order to meet customer needs. In the establishment itself, they oversee kitchen staff members who prepare desserts, and they may assist in the assembly process. Additionally, dessert chefs make sure ingredients are fresh, equipment is in working order and sanitation procedures are strictly followed.

The following chart gives you an overview about becoming a dessert chef.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent
Training Required Apprenticeships or on-the-job training may be available
Education Field of Study Pastry and desserts, baking
Licensure and/or Certification Multiple levels of certification are available
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% (for all chefs and head cooks)
Median Salary (2015)* $41,500 (for all chefs and head cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Become a Dessert Chef?

Although it's not required, many dessert chefs seek out postsecondary education. You can find associate's or bachelor's degree programs in baking and pastry arts from community colleges, universities or culinary institutes. Most of these programs provide hands-on training through courses or internships.

Associate degree programs train you for entry-level positions through courses on preparing pastries from scratch, managing a budget for a food service business, and utilizing basic computer applications for the hospitality industry. Some bachelor's degree programs may offer a concentration in hospitality and restaurant management, or culinary arts. Within these programs, you may learn about the history and traditions of pastries from all over the world, use marketing to promote your pastry business and develop menus.

What Does a Dessert Chef Do?

In addition to preparing desserts, you may also assist executive chefs with the dessert menu, respond to customers' specific requests and adjust menus based upon certain themes. As with all jobs in the food service industry, you must know how to maintain and prepare food in a sanitary environment by complying with company and regulatory standards. Additionally, you may be called upon to work irregular hours, including early mornings, nights, weekends and holidays.

Is Certification Available?

The Retail Bakers of America offers three levels of certification that may benefit dessert chefs and they are journey baker, baker and master baker (www.retailbakersofamerica.org). A certified journey baker assists in the preparation of baked goods for a commercial bakery. A certified baker does the same tasks as a journey baker, but also assists with the day-to-day operations of the bakery. A certified master baker possesses administration and management skills, and produces high-quality bakery foods. The tests may take 1-2 days to complete, and applicants take a written exam as well as prepare and present numerous bakery items for judges. There are also other professional organizations that offer certification for chefs, including the American Culinary Federation.

What About Experience?

Many employers require applicants to have more than five years of experience in a related occupation, according to the BLS. Certification organizations also require applicants to have between six months and five years of experience, depending on the level. In addition to paid jobs, experience may be obtained through higher learning programs and internships. PayScale.com reports that in 2016, pastry chefs earned a salary between $28,580 and $60,646 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals who are interested in leadership positions in restaurants may consider a job as a food service manager. Although these individuals are less involved than chefs in the culinary aspects of a restaurant, they play key roles in staff management and oversee restaurant operations to make sure that everything runs smoothly and that customers have a positive dining experience. While no postsecondary education is technically required for this job, an undergraduate degree and previous restaurant work experience can boost career prospects. Alternatively, individuals who are passionate about pastry-making may want to get a job as a baker. These workers do not usually have the supervisory responsibilities of chefs; rather they focus specifically on the preparation and presentation of desserts and other baked goods.

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