Have you always loved baking? Do you want to turn your passion for delicious desserts into a career? Here’s what you need to know before you get into the kitchen!
What does a Pastry Chef do?
It is true that pastry chefs are responsible for making dessert dreams come true, but that can involve a lot more than whipping up buttercream and tempering chocolate. Professional pastry chefs manage kitchens, budgets, and work with wholesale suppliers in their day to day. A lot of the job consists of administrative tasks as well as creating, researching, and experimenting with new flavours and recipes.
A great pastry chef is:
Able to work well under pressure
Patisserie is a field that is highly dependent on skilled and talented people, so skills such as good hand-eye coordination, a developed sense of aesthetics, and a keen sense of taste and smell will help you on your journey to becoming a pastry chef.
And of course, you must be passionate about food! Pastry chefs are leaders in the kitchen, which means long hours and lots of responsibility. A pastry chef is someone who lives and breathes desserts, all day and every day. Chefs with great passion are the ones who go the furthest in this career, because it provides them the drive they need to make it through the setbacks they face and the sacrifices they have to make.
Before you decide to become a pastry chef, it is important to ask yourself whether you have the passion needed to make it in this fast-paced and highly competitive industry. Working in hospitality is ideal for those who are creative problem solvers and love facing new challenges every day. It requires a lot of dedication and high amounts of stamina, so having those two qualities will give you an advantage in the kitchen.
Where do I start?
Do your research. There are many places where a pastry chef might work, and each place will value different skills. It is good to think about what you would like to specialise in early, whether you’d like to make wedding cakes, or candy, or work with chocolate all day. See what a typical business day looks like for a chef of the specialty you are interested in.
You should also consider working in a commercial kitchen or getting an internship of some sort in your field of interest to assess whether you and the career are right for each other. There is nothing better than a real working environment in this field to help you decide if your passion is enough for the reality of a day-to-day life in a kitchen. This will also give you a glimpse into what running a store is like and what it takes to keep a business going, should you be interested in opening a restaurant or bakery of your own someday.
And once you’re sure of the path you want to take to reach your pastry dreams…
In Australia, to work as a pastry chef you need at least a Certificate III in Patisserie. This is the entry level qualification for pastry chefs to work in a commercial kitchen.
Taking a course will help you get a solid grounding on essential topics like nutrition, food safety and preparation, culinary management, and service, as well as give you opportunities to work on practical skills like cake decorating, baking techniques, and plating. If you are looking to start your own pastry business, it is also a good idea to take a business management course to supplement your knowledge.
But the most highly valued qualification in this industry is experience. Some culinary programs will offer industry placements or internships to give you an opportunity to try working in a real commercial kitchen. Some programs also allow you to study while undergoing an apprenticeship, which means that you can make money and work in the field while you study. An apprenticeship gives you the chance to practice the skills you learn, and also may open many doors for you in the industry. You should definitely consider apprenticing under a mentor that you trust if you’re interested in making desserts a career.