Pastry Chef Career Information and Education Requirements
Pastry chefs produce baked goods such as desserts, pastries and breads. They're often in charge of the pastry departments of professional kitchens and have many bakers working for them. Associate's or bachelor's degrees are adequate educational preparation for the pastry chef career.
Pastry Chef Career Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not have separate information on pastry chefs; it includes pastry chefs with other kinds of chefs and head cooks when it compiles employment information. Overall, little to no change is expected for the employment growth of chefs and head cooks during the 2010-2020 period. The BLS reports that the field is very competitive, with hiring advantages held by those with more experience. The BLS also published that the annual median wage for chefs working in full-service restaurants was $38,520 in May 2010. Chefs working in specialty food services earned a median of $42,380 per year in May 2010, per the BLS.
An associate's degree in pastry arts is recommended for individuals who already hold an undergraduate degree in another discipline and want to change careers. However, a bachelor's degree is the recommended entry-level degree for aspiring pastry chefs who have no college credits. A bachelor's degree program also opens up kitchen managerial opportunities with restaurants, bakeries and hotels; both of these degree programs are offered by culinary schools. Associate's degrees are offered by some community colleges as well.
An associate's degree in pastry arts can be completed in two years and introduces students to the art of baking. All classes feature a hands-on component and lectures on the science of baking. Students learn how to bake desserts, breads, confections and pastries. Many culinary schools have an on-site café staffed by students who learn how to bake in a real world context. In addition to learning about the baking process, instruction is provided on menu development, food safety, nutrition and cost control. An internship may be required in order to complete the degree.
A bachelor's degree program in baking and pastry arts covers much of the same ground as an associate's degree but covers professional baking more thoroughly. Students learn how to bake breads, cakes and confections and receive instruction on the history of baking and some of the different regional pastry traditions.
Some of the courses may include gastronomy, contemporary cakes, pastry design and café operations. Management and business classes cover subjects such as restaurant law, food purchasing and control and marketing. Instruction may be punctuated by visits to farms and markets to taste and sample various foods and to understand contemporary farming methods.
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