Becoming a Baking and Pastry Chef in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean best known for its beaches. As a result, it offers some potentially unique opportunities for a baking and pastry chef. You could potentially choose to work on land or at sea. Several cruise lines call at San Juan, which could mean creating pastries as you cruise through the Caribbean. If the seafaring lifestyle is not your preferred option, Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort or the Serafina Beach Hotel in San Juan may offer options within their restaurants as well.

Communication is one of the most important skills required of a baking and pastry chef, not only with members of your team but also with clients and suppliers. Pastry baking is a science, so math and measurement skills are important, along with an understanding of chemical reactions between ingredients. Someone with a positive attitude and flexibility would do well as a baking and pastry chef. Deadlines can change and you need to be able to pick up the pace as required.

Government Requirements for Becoming a Pastry Chef in Puerto Rico

On Puerto Rico, a license is not required to become a baking and pastry chef, nor are there specific requirements in regard to education. If you choose to run your own bakery or catering business, however, you would need a business license.

Many employers want to hire chefs that are certified by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). To be certified by the ACF, there are education requirements. Several schools on the island offer programs that teach students proper culinary techniques as well as the business skills specific to baking and pastry, with certificate programs taking about a year to complete and associate degree programs requiring about two years of study.

If you want to become established as a baking and pastry chef, you’ll need to commit about five years, on average, to the effort. You can begin as a dishwasher in a restaurant kitchen and work your way up, learning as you go on your way to become a baking and pastry chef, or you can begin the journey by taking culinary arts and pastry baking courses.

Educational Opportunities for Baking and Pastry Chefs on Puerto Rico

Most formal baking and pastry programs teach students the basics of food safety and the skills to successfully run a restaurant or bakery, as well as what it takes to create delicious, unique-looking desserts. Some baking and pastry chef programs available on Puerto Rico are:

  • Escuela Hotelera. Located in San Juan, this school offers an International Baking and Pastry program that includes instruction in both classic and modern styles, concentrating partially on European pastries.
  • Universidad Ana G. Mendez. Located in Carolina, the Jose A (Tony) Santana International School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts offers an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts, which includes baking and pastry courses.

Certification for Baking and Pastry Chefs in Puerto Rico

While there is no license required to become a baking and pastry chef in Puerto Rico, obtaining certification from the American Culinary Federation can provide better opportunities. Within the ACF program, there are several levels of certification, each of which has its own completion requirements. The ACF also provides verification of accreditation status of educational programs as well as open apprenticeships via their website.

A baking and pastry chef may also want to join a professional networking association, such as Pastry Chefs of America, which hosts events and allows pastry chefs further opportunities to connect with others in their field.

Salary Outlook and Job Opportunities for Baking and Pastry Chefs in Puerto Rico

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, within the United States, the field of head chefs and cooks is expected to grow by a rate of approximately 11 percent, which is much faster than average growth across all careers. Specific information is not provided for baking and pastry chefs, as these positions are considered similar to head chefs. On Puerto Rico, growth in the field is expected to be approximately 9 percent during the ten years between 2018 and 2028, which is a bit slower than the national average but still quite steady.

Nationwide, the median annual salary paid to baking and pastry chefs as of May 2018 was $45,640. This means that half of all the people working as a baking and pastry chef earned more than that amount, while the other half earned less. The hourly mean rate of pay during 2018 was $23.30. On Puerto Rico, the median numbers that same year were just a bit lower. The median annual salary paid to a baking and pastry chef was $32,380, while the median hourly rate was $15.57. It is also important to note that Puerto Rico has austerity measures presently in place that affect salaries, pensions, sick leave and vacation pay.

Finding Work as a Pastry Chef in Puerto Rico

Working as a baking and pastry chef, your talents will get you the job, but solid people skills and business acumen will help you keep it. Delivering clients’ orders in a timely manner, tastefully and within their budgets is expected. The ability to tolerate the cold temperatures of walk-in refrigerators and freezers may be important in some locations, as well as the heat of the ovens. It can be a noisy job, too, with large mixers and sometimes many team members in the kitchen at once. It’s also a good idea to stay physically fit to allow you to be on your feet for several hours a day as well as to avoid injuries from repetitive movements.

On Puerto Rico, there are numerous employment options within the hospitality industry, but it is also possible to run your own business. Jobs can be found with a hotel or spa, cruise line, restaurant or caterer, or you can run your own patisserie or dessert catering business. Higher salaries for this profession could potentially be earned within the areas of San Juan, Carolina and Caguas.

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