Becoming a Baking and Pastry Chef in Washington
Do you enjoy baking and creating desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious? Then you might consider training as a pastry chef or head baker. Pastry chefs are in charge of all aspects of making sweets, breads and desserts for restaurants and bakeries and food service businesses. They direct and train staff, manage inventory and create new recipes and signature desserts for their employers.
As an entry-level pastry chef, you’ll develop the skills to make stunning breads, cakes, pies, candies and pastries. As your skills evolve, you’ll be able to take more responsibility in the kitchen and advance to a leading role as the head pastry chef. Working as a pastry chef in Washington State, you’ll have a lot of options for employment, as there is a high demand for experienced and knowledgeable chefs throughout the region.
Requirements for Pastry Chefs in Washington
Washington State does not require any specific education or training to start working as an entry-level pastry chef. Most employers prefer candidates with at least a high school diploma or GED. Experience in professional kitchens combined with specific training and certification in bread and pastry-making will help you advance from an assistant to a leading role.
You should enjoy working in a fast-paced atmosphere, have the dexterity and artistic eye to make beautiful desserts and be able to tolerate the long working hours necessary for this type of career.
Professional Certification for Pastry Chefs
While most employers are more concerned with your experience than your formal culinary education, obtaining professional certification as a pastry chef will help you stand out when applying for positions and should increase your salary as well.
The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers several levels of certification for pastry chefs. They have programs for new pastry cooks all the way up to master pastry chefs with many years of professional experience. Once you’ve passed their examination, you’ll be certified for three to five years and may renew your certification when it expires.
Educational Programs in Washington
You don’t have to go to a culinary school to become an entry-level pastry cook, but it will be much easier to secure employment and advance your career if you have a solid foundation in the science of making bread and pastry. Taking a few courses in baking and dessert-making will provide you with basic skills and knowledge and may help you decide if this career path is the right one for you.
Here are some programs for entry-level pastry chefs to consider in Washington:
- Seattle Culinary Academy (SCA). SCA offers culinary courses and degrees specifically for future pastry chefs and bakers. Their Specialty Desserts and Bread program has two tracts depending on whether you wish to obtain an associate’s degree or a certificate of completion. You’ll learn to make rustic breads, tarts, petit fours and tortes, and master the basics spinning sugar and molding chocolate into beautiful showpieces. As a student, you’ll gain hands-on experience working in the two on-site restaurants and bakeries. SCA also offers job placement services to their graduates and boasts that 97 percent of their students have employment offers upon completion of the program.
- Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LW Tech). Located in Kirkland, Washington, LW Tech has an associate’s degree program for the baking arts that is certified by the AFC. You’ll learn practical skills in baking, pastry and desserts, along with kitchen and business management techniques. As a student here, you’ll be working at the on-site kitchen and selling your creations to students and guests at the campus restaurant. Upon graduation, you’ll have your degree and initial level of certification through the AFC, which should help you secure employment as an entry-level pastry chef.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were approximately 1,560 chefs and head cooks in Washington in 2018. Pastry chefs and head bakers are included in this category. They made an average of $27.14 per hour, or about $57,680 annually, for full-time employment that same year. This is above the national average of $23.30 per hour for this field, so working as a pastry chef in Washington is a lucrative career option and should be for many years to come.
The field is expected to grow an additional 24.7 percent in Washington by 2026, so you’ll have a lot of future opportunities for employment. There are about 370 openings a year for head pastry chefs and bakers throughout the state.
Working as a Pastry Chef in Washington
Pastry chefs and head bakers have a lot of opportunities for employment in Washington. There is a high demand in this region for skilled and experienced pastry chefs to work in grocery stores, specialty dessert shops, bakeries and restaurants. As an entry-level pastry cook you should be able to quickly develop the advanced skills you need to take on a leading role in a professional kitchen.
While the majority of the openings for new pastry chefs are found in the Seattle or Vancouver Metro areas, there is steady demand for both entry-level and experienced chefs throughout the state. You’ll also have the option of looking for employment in neighboring Idaho or Oregon if you live near the border and don’t mind a commute.