Becoming a Baking and Pastry Chef in California

If you enjoy baking and experimenting with creating new recipes and practicing your artistic skills on the treats you create, why not make a career out of a hobby? If you feel like you can work in a fast-paced environment while baking and decorating, then you might enjoy a career as a baking and pastry chef in California.

Of course, baking knowledge and some creativity are needed to work as a baking and pastry chef. But these professionals do so much more than make and decorate decadent desserts. Many baking and pastry chefs run their own businesses, so business skills are a necessity.

Even if you don’t work on your own from the beginning, many pastry chefs oversee a team of staff and are responsible for the dessert portion of meals in restaurants or at catered events. They would need to be able to manage staff, keep a clean and organized kitchen, purchase supplies and keep up with orders. This job often has extended hours, sometimes beginning very early in the morning. Weekend and holiday work can also be expected. Additionally, baking and pastry chefs spend a lot of time on their feet and need to have good manual dexterity.

Guidelines for Pastry Chefs in California

You don’t need a license to work as a baking and pastry chef in California, nor does the state have any specific guidelines for this profession. However, you do need to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent to get started. Training is required, too, but this can be done on the job after you are already employed. You may also choose to work as an apprentice, or to complete a certificate or degree program in baking and pastry arts offered through a post-secondary institution. Many pastry chefs start off working in the kitchen as a dishwasher or cook, or even as a server, and by learning on the job, work their way up to a chef’s position.

California Training Programs for Baking and Pastry Chefs

If you are interested in taking an educational training program to sharpen your culinary skills, California has quite a few to choose from. A couple of examples of these programs are:

  • The Institute of Technology. The Institute of Technology’s Baking and Pastry Specialist diploma program consists of 48 credit hours, including a 160 clock hour externship at a local restaurant, hotel or club. This program is available at both the Clovis and Modesto campuses, with classes held Monday through Thursday. The program takes 40 weeks to complete.
  • San Francisco Cooking School. The San Francisco Cooking School has an exceptional Pastry and Baking Arts Program. Classes can either be taken full-time or part-time. If taken at a full-time pace, the program can be completed in six months, while the part-time program takes a year to complete. Before graduation, students can pick their specialization and complete an externship at an appropriate venue. Most of the coursework is taught through hands-on learning in a kitchen setting.

Certifications for Baking and Pastry Chefs

This an ambitious job market. If you are pursuing a career as a baking and pastry chef, you will want to set yourself apart from your peers. One way to do that is to complete training beforehand so that you don’t have to be trained on the job. Another way is to obtain certifications as a specialized baking and pastry chef. The most popular accreditation agency for chefs is the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The ACF has six certifications that are relevant to baking and pastry chefs. These are a Certified Fundamentals Pastry Cook, Certified Pastry Culinarian, Certified Working Pastry Chef, Certified Executive Pastry Chef, and Certified Master Pastry Chef. To become certified you will need to complete the required educational hours as well as pass an examination.

Salary and Career Outlook in California

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), baking and pastry chefs made a median salary of $52,160 nationwide in 2018. In the state of California, baking and pastry chefs made an annual average $51,400, or $24.71 per hour, that same year, which is slightly lower than the national average but still a decent salary.

Where the job growth rate is concerned, the state is predicted to see a 14 percent increase in the number of baking and pastry chefs working there by the year 2026. Additionally, out of all the states, California has the highest employment level for this profession.

Career Prospects for Pastry Chefs in California

Baking and pastry chefs work in an array of settings, from hospitals and hotels to catering companies and restaurants. Many baking and pastry chefs are self-employed and either run their own bakery or operate a baking business from their home.

Since the state does have the highest employment levels for this career, finding work as baking and pastry chef in California should not be a problem. However, there are some cities that have higher levels of employment for certain careers than others. In California, these cities are Anaheim, Long Beach and Los Angeles. Napa has the highest concentration of baking and pastry chef jobs in the state. Furthermore, if you are looking for the cities that pay the most in this job field, baking and pastry chefs in Oxnard, Salinas, Santa Cruz, Thousand Oaks, Ventura and Watsonville all make over $67,000 annually.

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