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Chef vs. Pastry Chef

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'd like to hear from both sides, as to what you feel the benefits and drawbacks are for both of these tracks in the culinary field.

I like the energy of the restaurant kitchen. Can a pastry chef ever experience this? When I worked in a bakery, I worked alone for 8 hours at a time, but it was small.

I understand desserts and breads more than other dishes, although I like thinking about flavor combinations and might just need to learn more.

What have you found in your personal experience?

(This seems like a great topic, so please redirect me if it has been discussed in the past and I missed it!)

~~Shimmer~~
"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea"
- Henry James
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"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea"
- Henry James
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post #2 of 12
I'm going through this same dilemna. Here is what I have gathered from my personal experience and talking with others...

Pastry PRO'S:
-Shorter ladder to decent money (pastry chef in 3-5 years)
-More opportunity to work days/family friendly schedule

CON'S
-Unless you own a shop, you are never the boss
-Don't get as much respect as the Chef

Chef PRO'S
-Running the place, being the boss

CON'S
-Longer ladder to good $ (7-10 years to become a chef). I'll be graduating school when I'm 32 so I'm not sure if I have 7-10 years to work at lower wages
-Longer hours than pastry chef
-More chance of working nights/weekends

Again, these are what I have seen and been told. I worked 6 months on a hotline and then moved Restaurants to work with Pastries. I've been doing pastries for 5 months.

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post #3 of 12
theloggg,

As a pastry chef, I have to disagree with some of the pros and cons you gave:

I don't know anyone who became a pastry chef in 3 years. I think the learning curve is the same for chefs and P.C.s, and money comes with experience. It was 8 years after I got out of school until I took a pastry chef position.

Pastry chefs generally work the same hours as everybody else in a restaurant kitchen, but we stay LATER, because dessert is last to go out.

I never feel less respected than the chef, but my pay will always be a little bit less, because I have less responsibility.

Usually, the pastry chef is in charge of his/her own shop within the kitchen, so in that case, you are just as much your own boss as the chef is, but you work together to coordinate plans and ideas.

Just a different perspective.
post #4 of 12
theloggg,

As a pastry chef, I have to disagree with some of the pros and cons you gave:

I don't know anyone who became a pastry chef in 3 years. I think the learning curve is the same for chefs and P.C.s, and money comes with experience. It was 8 years after I got out of school until I took a pastry chef position.

Pastry chefs generally work the same hours as everybody else in a restaurant kitchen, but we stay LATER, because dessert is last to go out.

I never feel less respected than the chef, but my pay will always be a little bit less, because I have less responsibility.

Usually, the pastry chef is in charge of his/her own shop within the kitchen, so in that case, you are just as much your own boss as the chef is, but you work together to coordinate plans and ideas.

Just a different perspective.
post #5 of 12
Hmmm.

It's complicated. I am a pastry chef. Ive worked in a bakery and now in a Country Club.

Respect: for me, there is quite alot. People at the club like their good ol' country cookin' but they love for me to "wow" them with new or fancy desserts. So I get alot more attn. It seems there is alot more that I can do to impress people than the chef and his other staff.

The chef doesn't tell me what to do at all. I make my own schedule. I decide when I will do what for the most part. All they care about is that it is good and ready on time. It's up to me to make that happen.

schedule: I do have to work some nights. When there is a plated dessert for a large party I am the last to serve. But if I dont have to serve it I can leave earlier. (for example weddings) However I have helped out at a wonderful gormet restaurant in town and the pastry chef there leaves by 3 every day. Her asst (a student) finishes the desserts at service time. She hardly ever wears her chef coat.

Job opportunity: Here, very good for pastry chefs. There is quite a need. I was offered a job outright at a five star restaurant a couple of years ago...and, well, I was WAY underqualified.

The problem with being a pastry chef is that to really BE a pastry chef there are so many different venues you need to experience. My friend at that nice restaurant basically comes in and makes the same 5 or 6 desserts every day. The food is so good most people dont make it to dessert. She almost never has need to temper chocolate. It would seem like a great job at first...but not so challenging.

Pastry chefs really all need to work at some point in an Ala cart rest. setting, Country club or other banquet, bakery, etc. to really be well rounded.

well that is my 2C. and maybe a buck more.
eeyore
post #6 of 12
I worked in kitchens, and did a lot of baking, for 21 years before I switched to baking fulltime. It took me nine years to go from being a prep/cook dishwasher, to running my own kitchen. It took me about ten minutes to get a job as a baker/pastry chef after finishing pastry school. But I think that 21 years of kitchen experience had a lot to do with that. If I had to, I could run the hot line at the country club where I work, but I left that kind of work because I got sick and tired of going home smelling like food. If I had to smell like anything, I wanted it to be vanilla, chocolate and other good stuff. Making a lateral move like that at mid-life is like having another whole craft to master. Even though my shop is physically isolated from the main kitchen, I feel very much a part of the team, I get a lot of respect from the chef, who is 16 years younger than me, he really tries to make it an us/we kitchen and a lot of guys like to make it an I/me situation. I think the learning curve is a little steeper in baking, especially bread baking, and I feel I'll always be a student. I used to thrive on the pressure and speed on the line, but I don't think I could do that now. Feel like an old ball player who has lost half a step. Plus, now I wear glasses, and they fog over badly when working on the range. And there's the feeling, Oh well, another tournedos de bouef a la sauce medoc, been there, done that, now how about a nice charlotte with 20 hour apples and caramel cinnamon bavarian cream? Hours? Depends where you work. I found the midnight shift in a bread bakery to be horrifying. And I've worked till 11:30 pm more nights than I can remember. I'd rather be in early, and out early. If we have a plated dessert for 165 people, I make the components and the kitchen crew puts it together at service time. At this point I am very very picky about working conditions and wouldn't put up with the stuff I did starting out. I like a clean, well-lighted room, and keep those clean uniforms coming.
It's not Dairy Queen.
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It's not Dairy Queen.
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post #7 of 12
I'm another pastry chef at a country club. I can identify with everything written before me. Each kitchen is different just as each chef running it is, therefore each experience will differ. I think working at a country club is a better schedule then any other cooking job. Previously I was a caterer for many years. I had great freedom and could explore cooking and baking in any dirrection I wanted. So if you really want creativity in cooking thats a great route. But the hours and life style were too much, I longed for a more normal schedule.

In my area finding a pastry chef position is a challenge, most places don't use us. At times I feel a bit trapped in this field.

I have complete freedom to choose my schedule and most of my menu is completely up to my discretion. I adore the variety of my work and themed events we do at clubs!!!

Unforunately I've had alot of problems at my club. Mainly the freedom and creativity I have in my job causes resentment from the hot side. My chef is threatened by the attention my work earns so I find my job rather isolating. The fact that he doesn't understand basic baking principals makes my work that much harder.

When I was interviewing for my position the chef kept repeating how he didn't understand why none of the pastry chefs ever stayed... Because he's very freindly to my face it's taken me three years on my job to finally realize the truth of my position. He doesn't want a pastry chef in HIS kitchen, period, because we steal his thunder!

He does many silly, stupid things to frustrate me (and is stupid enough to think I and other people don't notice). It's hard working in a kitchen where your not welcome. But I've found great strength and support from our waitstaff who are aware of the chefs bizzare behavior. I often play dumb to make the chef feel superior. I do my best to praise his work and pretend I don't realize that he constantly comes to me (not his guys) with tastings to prove himself to me.

My advice to any "want to be" pastry chefs would be to seek out a position with a chef who has some baking experience themselfs and make sure they really want YOU as a part of THEIR team. ;)
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #8 of 12
Boy, do some of those comments ring a bell w/me. In an ideal world, there would be no place for passive/aggressive b.s. like that. I left a job where I had put in some serious time because the kitchen was rife with that stuff. How many people in food service can look at themselves in the mirror and say, "
I'm a professional." Not as many as would like to think so, from my experience. Put me in a management position and pull stuff like that, and heads would roll. Grow or go.
It's not Dairy Queen.
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It's not Dairy Queen.
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post #9 of 12
As a "Executive Chef" I have so much respect for the "pastry arts" The hours,creativity and stamina requiered are huge.In most cases the last thing a guest enjoys before they leave your restaurant is something prepared by the last person in the kitchen "the pastry chef"
My hats off to all of you that have elavated the dining expereance.
Sincerly
cc :)
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #10 of 12
I wholly agree with Cape! Plus, I just can't understand how any executive chef could not appreciate the work of a fine pastry chef; even if the customer sometimes doesn't appreciate your work, I always do! Bakers and Pastry chefs rock!!!
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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post #11 of 12
:o You're making us blush!
post #12 of 12
Nice to hear other opinions. I should clarify, I didn't mean less respect from the chef. I meant from the staff and public.

The pro's and con's I posted come from the only 2 Pastry Chefs I have worked with so my input is very limited. They both work in well-respected Bay Area restaurants.

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