New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

SF Bay Area Pastry Chefs?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hello all,

My first post here, nice to meet you.

 

I am a 43 year old former cook/sous chef (it's been 15 years).  I am (almost certainly) going to be laid off from my current position and am thinking of returning to cooking, but this time focusing on baking and pastry.  I'm considering going to a culinary school for a certificate in baking and pastry here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but have not decided which one yet.

 

I have a few questions that I'd like to ask. 

 

Are there any Bay Area pastry chefs out there?  If so, do you have any opinions on the various schools here?  I'm considering CCA in SF, le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento, the San Francisco Baking Institute, and even a certificate program at Santa Rosa Community College.

 

I'm just wondering what you have seen as far as graduates from these schools--were they well prepared, knowledgeable, etc.  What did they say about those programs?  Hearsay and rumors are welcome. :)

 

Second question goes out to a broader audience: What is a typical shift for an entry level pastry assistant/cook?  I know the salary will be low, but will the shifts be mostly at night?  I have kids so evening/night shifts are not feasible; early-early-O'dark thirty morning shifts would be possible, however.

 

Thanks!

 

Michael

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 9

Hi back at ya!

 

As a caterer and someone who uses on call staff only, I look for people with experience.

 

Sadly, the San Francisco Bay Area no longer has the rich talent pool it used to. Because of this, you may be able to get a position based on your prior experience, but a pastry cert wouldn't hurt.

 

The type of place you look for will make a difference too. Some cooks just want to make a name for themselves at any cost. Consequently, some restaurant owners are cautious about hiring Prima donnas, so don't be one, and look for a place that needs someone solid. Since you have experience, you already have more value as an employee than the average culinary grad.

 

ALSO: school is expensive, so unless you are getting grants, or are dead serious about this. Try getting back in the kitchen first.

"You are only as good as who you hire."
Reply
"You are only as good as who you hire."
Reply
post #3 of 9

Hello,

 

Just an advice, as what Quelper said:

 

"ALSO: school is expensive, so unless you are getting grants, or are dead serious about this. Try getting back in the kitchen first."

 

And also, you are 43 yrs. old. It's better to use your past experience than shifting into another category. It's like you are starting from

the beginning again. Remember time is running out for you.  :)

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Ouch!  Touche' on that one.  It's true, time is running out, which is one of the reasons I want to pursue this now.. :)

 

I wanted to repeat my question about the typical times of a baking/pastry cook's shifts.  Are they more in the mornings or more in the evenings?

 

I just found out more about the Santa Rosa Junior College certificate.  It's about 1/10 the price of the other two schools.  Wow.

 

Anyone in the Bay Area have any insights on these schools?  Will I be severely limiting my future opportunities if I go for the cheaper school?

post #5 of 9

 

Quote:

And also, you are 43 yrs. old. It's better to use your past experience than shifting into another category. It's like you are starting from

the beginning again. Remember time is running out for you.  :)

OMG! If "time is running out" for a 43 yr old, what about a 68 yr old?????

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #6 of 9

I used to live in Healdsburg and worked at a very nice, very famous restaurant there.  I did not go to the CCA, but did go to the Le Cordon Bleu school of Chicago.  At the restaurant, we had several grads from CCA and one from SRJC.  We all had relatively the same amount of working knowledge--- by that I mean knowledge that applied to work.  And that is one advantage of SRJC over CCA or anywhere else.  They will be more focused on teaching you the skills that will serve you as a cook/baker immediately, where as LCB schools and the like focus more on teaching someone the conceptual side of how to cook.  This may or may not be making sense in the post, but it is in my head Lol.  What I'm saying is that if you went to an LCB school, you might learn more about cooking altogether, but you will learn a lot of things that are not necessarily applicable to someone on the job market at the time.  So it may not be worth the extra money.

 

But really, CCA is probably going to cost you 35k to get your Associate's, I'd imagine CCA would cost $15-20k for the certificate, and I'd bet SRJC would cost less than 5k.  If you're going to spend 5k (at least) then I would actually recommend using that 5k to pay for living expenses while you do extended stages at several different places--- but the best places you can find.  For example, if you don't know whether you want to be a bread baker at a restaurant, or a pastry chef, or run your own bakery, doing an extended stage can allow you to do them all.  5k should get you several months (even somewhere like SF) to play around on.  So spend a month working for free for the  baking portion of the best restaurant that will let you in.  Then spend a month staging at the best bakery that will let you in.  Then spend a month staging with a super talented pastry chef.  At the end of those three months, I promise you that not only will you have more knowledge than you would have gotten spending that money on school, but you'll have a much better idea of exactly what it is that you want to do within the world of pastry, AND you'll also have 3 months worth of experience at well-known places, and perhaps you'll have made some lasting culinary professional contacts in the meantime.

 

That is my advice.  This is coming from someone who DID spend the money on my associate's at an LCB school.  If I had to do it over again, I'd follow the advice I just gave to you.  Now don't get me wrong, because I can't complain.  In my schooling I made a lot of contacts, gained a lot of knowledge, and was forced to study things that I didn't need to know, didn't want to know, but am now glad that I do know.  I'm just saying that there are many ways to end up where you want to be, and I think learning on the job is a good way.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Wow.  Thanks KW, for the awesome post and useful info.

 

Do you have any suggestions on how to approach a restaurant about a stage?  I've been out of the restaurant business for a long time, and back then nobody ever did stages, as far as I know.  Are they pretty common now?  Would most nice restaurants/bakeries consider it?  Remember that I have 10 years of cooking experience, though it was some time ago...

 

A cert at Sac LCB is about $18k.  A cert at CCA in SF is about 23k.  A cert at SRJC is $1600.

 

Given my age and the fact that I have kids, there is no way I can justify spending money that I have saved, that could go to my kids' college fund, if I can do it for 10% of the price, even if the cheaper school is maybe 80% of the quality of the more expensive school. 

 

That said, could you give me an example of the kind of info that you learned that you thought you would never need, but are happy you know now?

 

In my 10 years of working as a cook/sous chef, I became aware, especially at the end, that I had some large holes in my knowledge--I had never made all of the mother sauces from scratch, for example.  Then again, if I didn't come across it in 10 years, maybe it was because that type of cooking was out of date at that time, if not irrelevant...

 

Anyway, sorry to ramble.  I'd like to know more about stageing and the "useless info," though.

post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclimbin View Post

Wow.  Thanks KW, for the awesome post and useful info.

 

Do you have any suggestions on how to approach a restaurant about a stage?  I've been out of the restaurant business for a long time, and back then nobody ever did stages, as far as I know.  Are they pretty common now?  Would most nice restaurants/bakeries consider it?  Remember that I have 10 years of cooking experience, though it was some time ago...

 

That said, could you give me an example of the kind of info that you learned that you thought you would never need, but are happy you know now?

 .



Stages are indeed common--- very very common now.  Although the most common don't last longer than a service or maybe a weekend (for example, I try to stage on my days off, but I still have my own restaurant to work at, so I can't do it more than that).  But it is a great way to make contacts, and it is good for both the restaurant and the stage.  The restaurant gets some free labor (even if it is just stuff like peeling vegetables) and the stage gets the experience of meeting good cooks, good chefs, and watching how a truly professional kitchen is run.  I would find the places you want to apply and then send them a cover letter explaining your situation and asking for a stage (make sure to specify that it would be longer than a single service) and then a copy of your resume as well.  If you do get a stage, don't be discouraged when they have you doing menial tasks at first.  They need to build up a certain level of trust in you and in your abilities before they can allow you to work with some of the more important stuff.  Still, if you eager to learn and willing to work your ass off, it can be an incredibly eye-opening experience.

 


Let me say that none of the information I learned in my program was really "useless."  I'm of the opinion that the more you know, the better you can be.  So while the following examples might not be things that I use on the job, and they might be things I will most likely never use on the job, I am glad that I know them now and that I could use them if the need ever arose.  But on that list of things would include: working with aspic, making pate en croute, making crazy garnish work out of vegetables, like roses out of tomato peel, daikon statues, ice sculpting, and things of that nature.  I understand that there are some places that still use some of these, especially things like pate en croute.  I'm just saying that if I were 20 years older than I am now, and didn't want to spend the extra time or money learning things that I would most likely not use, then I would not go the route that would teach me all of those things.

 

Whatever you do, best of luck.  I'm sure it's an exciting and scary time for you.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Another question, or really one of the questions I asked before: is it common to work an early morning or day shift as a pastry chef?  I can't really do night/evening shifts, at least for not very long.

 

If day/morning shifts don't exist for pastry chefs / bakers, then I'll have to rethink everything...

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home

Gear mentioned in this thread: