Becoming a Baking and Pastry Chef in Oregon

If you enjoy baking pastries and assembling beautiful desserts, you might consider becoming a pastry chef. Pastry chefs and head bakers are employed in restaurants, cafes and bakeries throughout the state of Oregon. As a pastry chef, you’ll design recipes to create amazing breads, cakes, tarts, pies and other delicious desserts for your customers.

Working with pastries and desserts takes precision, consistency and an artistic eye. This is a fast-paced industry and generally requires long hours and a strong set of skills. Before you can take the lead, you’ll have to gain experience by working in kitchens under other pastry chefs. Once you’ve obtained the necessary experience, however, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to advance your career in Oregon.

Requirements for Baking and Pastry Chefs in Oregon

There are no official requirements for becoming a pastry chef or head baker in Oregon. Generally, employers are more concerned with your experience and skills rather than your education. Most pastry chefs and head bakers work their way up from entry-level assistants, and it usually takes several years of experience before they are ready to take the lead position.

Having a high school diploma or GED should make it easier to find entry-level employment, however, and taking culinary courses in baking, pastry and desserts will make you a more desirable candidate. Once you have your Oregon Food Handler’s card, you may begin work in a commercial kitchen or bakery to gain hands-on experience.

Professional Certification for Pastry Chefs

Certification isn’t a requirement, but obtaining professional certification through an organization like the American Culinary Federation (AFC) will help you stand out in a crowded field. The competition for employment is quite high in Oregon for lead baking and pastry chefs, especially in the Portland Metro area. Having an AFC certificate may help you gain employment and should increase your salary as well.

The AFC offers several examinations for pastry chefs, including Certified Fundamentals Pastry Cook (CFPC) for entry-level workers and Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC) for more experienced chefs. At the highest level, you may take the exam for and become a Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC). Once you have passed the exam and received your certificate, you’ll have to renew it every 3 to 5 years.

Educational Programs in Oregon

Gaining hands-on experience in a professional kitchen or bakery is the best way to climb from an entry-level to a head pastry chef or baker, but taking culinary courses may also help you advance more quickly.

Here are a couple of culinary programs in Oregon to help you develop the fundamental skills you’ll need to succeed in this industry:

  • Oregon Culinary Institute (OCI). Located in downtown Portland, OCI is an excellent option if you live near the metro area. They offer two Associate of Occupational Study degrees (AOS) for pastry and baking specialists. You may focus on the business side of the field and go for the pastry-focused Hospitality Management program, or take the shorter course for a Baking and Pastry diploma. Once you’ve completed your degree, you’ll be ready for an entry-level position in a bakery or restaurant, or you might use your new business skills to start a food cart or other pastry-based endeavor.
  • Cascade Culinary Institute (CCI). If you live in Central Oregon near Bend, you might consider studying at CCI. They have two distinct tracts for pastry and baking students. If you are planning to seek employment once you’ve completed your coursework, you’ll likely prefer the two-year certificate program in Baking and Pastry Arts. The other option is to work toward your Associate of Applied Arts (AAS) degree and then transfer to a four-year program to pursue a higher degree. The coursework for both programs is similar, but the requirements for the AAS degree are more stringent and costly.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were approximately 1,540 chefs and head cooks in Oregon in 2017, which includes pastry chefs and head bakers. The mean reported wage was $20.73 per hour or about $46,200 a year for full-time employment, which is slightly under the national average of $23.87 per hour.

Projections indicate this field will expand 14.9 percent by 2026, with an average of 180 openings a year. While Oregon may not be the fastest growing state in the country for pastry chef jobs, there are always new restaurants and bakeries opening, so you should not have trouble finding employment at the entry level and beyond.

Working as a Pastry Chef in Oregon

Oregonians enjoy eating out and ordering food for delivery, so the culinary field in the state is in a constant state of advancement. As a pastry chef, you’ll have the opportunity to create new recipes and signature desserts, pastries and candies. You may find work in an established restaurant, café or bakery, or you might start your own business or work as a personal chef. The opportunities for experienced pastry chefs are quite varied, and there is a high demand for entry-level assistants throughout the state as well. If you love sweets and want to work in a fast-paced and creative industry, this could be the ideal career choice for you.

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