What Does a Pastry Chef Do?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in the culinary field are growing. There is increasing demand for professionals who can make and serve food. Within the culinary industry is a great range of careers, including everything from bartending to catering. If you have always enjoyed making food, consider becoming a pastry chef, a culinary professional who focuses on desserts and baked goods.

The Duties of a Pastry Chef

The full range of things you may do as a pastry chef varies depending on where you work. But in general, pastry chefs are responsible for planning and creating desserts and all types of baked goods, both savory and sweet. Some of the more specific duties you can expect to encounter working in this career include:

  • Making desserts, pastries and breads
  • Making precise measurements of ingredients
  • Planning dessert menus and special desserts or baked goods for events and catering
  • Creating and testing dessert and baking recipes
  • Ordering supplies needed for making pastries and baked goods while sticking to a budget
  • Managing a team of pastry chefs
  • Cleaning the work space and baking area
  • Taking orders and making custom desserts and baked goods

If you become a pastry chef and work in a large restaurant, you may specialize in one particular area. Large kitchens often have several pastry chefs, responsible for different things:

  • A boulanger, or baker, makes breads, pastries and cakes.
  • The confiseur, or confectioner, produces candies and small cakes.
  • The decorateur, or decorator, makes and decorates special items, like large cakes.
  • A glacier is the pastry chef responsible for cold and iced desserts.

Where Do Pastry Chefs Work?

What you’ll actually do as a pastry chef from day to day depends on the job and employer. In a large restaurant you may be one of several pastry chefs, making food all day. If you are in a smaller restaurant as the only pastry chef it will fall to you to be the developer of the menu and of recipes as well as the responsibility for making everything.

In addition to restaurants, you may be hired by a commercial bakery or a retail bakery. In either case you’ll have regular hours and a main responsibility of making baked goods and pastries. Many pastry chefs are self-employed and own their own catering companies or bakery and pastry shops. In that case, your responsibilities will also include all those that go along with running a business: budgeting, hiring, supervising employees, accounting and ordering ingredients, among others.

What it Takes to Work as a Pastry Chef

What pastry chefs do all day is largely making food. While there may be other tasks, like organizing, cleaning, or ordering ingredients, you’ll spend most of the day on your feet with your hands in the mixing bowl. Be prepared to do physical work, lifting big bags of ingredients and handling big commercial baking equipment. You’ll also get hot and sweaty in the kitchen, so this job can be uncomfortable at times.

There are also some dangers in working as a pastry chef. You may be injured by mixing equipment, from lifting heavy bags of flour, or by hot ovens and pans. Repetitive stress injuries are also possible, as are cuts and scrapes. Bakers in particular tend to work early hours, but any type of pastry chef may need to work evenings or weekends.

Becoming a Pastry Chef

To become a pastry chef you don’t need to have formal training. Some people in the industry are self-taught and many are trained on the job, often working up from busing and dishwashing to become trained chefs. Culinary school is a good option for getting started so that you don’t have to start at the bottom. A degree in pastry or baking can help you land a job in a kitchen or bakery right away.

If you love to bake and cook, enjoy testing new recipes, have patience and a steady hand, and you are able to stand for several hours at a time, working as a pastry chef may be a good career choice. Whether you go to culinary school or train on the job, just a couple of years are enough to land a job making desserts, pastries and breads.