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is becoming a pastry chef the smart move? - Page 2

post #31 of 43

I did not see it mentioned above but I might of missed it, your health / body is something to think about. I started in the restaurant business in my teens and now at 48 my career is starting to be a concern of mine. This business can be hard on the body and you might want to consider if you want to be cooking full time into your 60's. 

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post #32 of 43

Not long ago I turned 60 and am seeing a tremendous drop in my energy levels.  Be prepared for this and keep up an exercise program for your body is the only real thing you own in life.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.



Brot und Wein
(1 photos)

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.



Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
post #33 of 43
Try to pinpoint what aspect of pastry you would like to work in. Small scale, large commercial, restaurant, bakery, hotel, cake want to do bread? Plated desserts? Breakfast pastries? Cakes? Find places that will let you stage for a day to help you figure it out.

Having worked in restaurants my entire average inexperienced pastry cook will make between $8-10/hr. Some places will pay OT, others will cap you at 40 hours, others will have you work for free for a couple of hours each day (essentially shift pay). Experienced cooks will make around the $10-12 mark (excluding hotels) and once you get into management; sous positions will pay mid 30s and exec pastry positions are in the 40s and 50s. You could very well be making $25k/year even with a few years of experience.

Definitely be prepared for long hours, limited family time especially around holidays, and to work through sickness and injuries. But to me it's worth it. I love working with my hands, the camraderie you get in a kitchen, and the process of creating beautiful plated desserts. Every once in awhile I think about leaving restaurants to work in a bakery, but theres something so electric and vibrant about being in a restaurant kitchen. that being said, it's not for everyone....some people are better suited
For bakeries or catering or wherever else..

Staging in various kitchens and businesses for a day is going to be your best gauge to see if you'll enjoy this career.
post #34 of 43
As someone mentioned this is a great post to be resurrecting. I am currently researching (yet again for the 50th+ time) whether I should pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a Pastry Chef. I can tell you I have read over a hundred blogs and articles on people saying it is hard work, little pay, etc and I admire those who have much more to say than the stereotypical facts. I decided to take some alternative routes and plan on finishing up my last two quarters in Psychology. I have a master plan of wanting to accrue different certifications in the food industry to piece it together as one and be a "one of a kind" character.
post #35 of 43
If its a dream and will make you happy, do it. Joy cannot be under emphasized, it keeps me going thru the hard times. Have a second income backup plan though, the pay is not there for most
post #36 of 43
Typically most pastry work where I live commands somewhere in the range of 14-16 if you've got certs. Though I never worked in a bakery.
post #37 of 43
I know I may be late in the game, but I'm considering going back to school. I've been w the same company 11 yrs and 6 of those years I've been in the Bakery dept. I was thinking of getting my education as a chef.Most ppl suggest pastry since I've been in that area for so long. I really hope to own my business but I'm not certain which direction I should take.

Open to ideas. Definitely have the passion of working w food no matter what!
post #38 of 43

You don't have to do school full time.  French Pastry School in Chicago does it in modules.

post #39 of 43
Welcome to Chef Talk...

See if you can get your hands on one or three textbooks that address pastry.
Pretty sure CIA has made them available for the public.

Look them over and see what you have already mastered and if that content includes (along with basic bakery skills) dishes you would see on a linen tablecloth restaurant menu or can make enough different pastries to fill an upscale bakery display case (include those jewel like confections here) you are one step away from certification in one or another aspect of pastry (certifications are oftimes just as good if you have many years of experience to back it up).
Extra points if you can create a pastry menu lol.

Then look around for an internship (inside your current company?) in one or another of the savory kitchens.
Go in with a good attitude and humble manner and you just might be taken under someone's wing (their "project" if you will) and get to see and do enuf for you to be able to make an educated decision.
Will you need additional formal education or have you picked up enuf along the way to be able to "learn on the job" (maybe take a few module classes to shore up your weaker walls).

Whatever path you chose I wish you luck......

post #40 of 43

Heya Food welcome to the forum!


You ask a great question. I have gone through the same thing you are asking about right now and it is not as difficult as one might think to get both certifications as I have. I would suggest that you challenge the Certification for Baker where you are as you have the hours and most of the knowledge to do so after 6 years. Get your employer to sign what you have done and hours worked and then study and write the exam. This way you will not lose the ability to use your hours for baking if you choose to go the culinary route and then later decide you rather have your baking certification. YES the bastards that be will not allow you to use hours you have worked if a certain time frame has passed since you worked as a baker (same goes for culinary). They also might make you take the year worth of foundation courses and still use your hours and then you are pretty much guaranteed to pass your exam. 


As for the culinary route....assuming you do not have any training nor hours in must start from the beginning and go to school and get the hours. You might be lucky and get some hours that you have worked in a bakery put towards your culinary but that is up to the governing board where you live. If you have some training and hours towards culinary then challenge what you can and go to school for the rest and then accumulate the hours. 


I would also suggest that despite what we all say here on the forum, that you do your homework. Really ask a lot of questions from your governing board to your fellow bakers and chefs to your bosses at work as they might have already done this for other people. Never be afraid to ask the questions and challenge the rules as this gets you to where you want to be in a much shorter time frame without all the red tape and wasting your time and money trying to jump through their hoops.


I wish you all the best!

post #41 of 43

I have been wanting to write to you for a while since I joined this site. I to was 15 once I went to a VoTech Highschool where i spent half my year making and learning about food. Like you I had done several things both American and European in food on my own. I was the best at food in my school hands down I dreamt of going to CIA and becomeing a chef some day I loved all there was to it. The creativity, the challenge, and at 16 I made significantly more than my peers in a local restaurant . Well this is because it was all kids stuff I was not the real world in food culinary or pastry . I was much better at pastry than I was at culinary I loved the cakes , the pies, anything you can do with pate choux I loved it all. Then I got a bit older and graduated high school . I went right into culinary school to NECI I lasted 4 months and was to over whelmed . I gave it 5 years and when I was 23 I went back to school for pastry arts I loved it but Pastry school was the hardest thing emotionally, physically, and scholastically I have ever done . I was drained 100% at all times it was a non stop battle I slept very little , never partied , and worked constantly . I am proud I graduated 6th in my class 3.6 gpa and went on to hate the food industry completely . I took 8 months off after college to recuperate you can only go full out for so long befrore it breaks you down.

Another thing Pastry and Culinary school are not designed for kids just getting out of high school like regular colleges are. Regular colleges build there entire student experience based on the fact 95% of the students will be right out of high school. Pastry and Culinary school base most of there student bodies on the fact that "most" students will be career changers so they will be older . When I went to NECI the average aged student was 30 in the Restaurant school my students around me we on average of 35 not 18. Its a huge adult world in food colleges . Here is another thing go to pastry school and you are not garenteed that you will make good money when you get out . In fact I made 11.00 and hour for years and often made less in other places I landed a job 5 years out of school where I made 16.00 an hour as an "Executive" Pastry chef this is with a degree !! The other thing you need to realistically think of is the hours in this field you go in before the culinary kitchen crew at 4 am to 9 am and get out at 5 if its a bakery or 1am sometimes even 3 am if its a restaurant . The hours are brutal you work 40-65 hours a week if not longer with little or no breaks a lunch break was dream as a pastry chef I had only enough time to smoke a cigarette if I was lucky besides I had no time for the things I needed to get done leave alone a coffee break . Holidays do you like Christmas, or Easter or 4th of july, or Thanks Giving, Cinco de maiao, or the lesser holidays. If you go into food you will never have another holiday off as long as you are employed as part of a kitchen staff. Weekends I cant remember from age 19 -30 never having a weekend off. Think about this this is huge when your friends are in town sorry you got work, when your family is having a get together sorry you have to work, when your best friend is getting married on a weekend sorry you have to work thats just the way this business is, know your expectations before you begin. I asked for a weekend off it was a big weekend according to the books I asked 3 months in advanced, a month out they gave me the weekend off . I got a call on friday night saying sorry we need you to work I said no you gave me the weekend off and hung up the phone. I got a call satursday morning to come into work and I got to the restaurant and they cleaned out my locker and gathered up my tools and said go away for the weekend and you are fired . I walked ! and said I had had enough this happened to me several times . I went away on vacation I needed it I got back they shorted me a weeks pay in my check and I was the execuutive pastry chef as a side note they asked me what I thought i sucked it up and went to work . Another thing you will jump from job to job to job looking for the perfect situation its not there . So think about never having your own life , making low to no pay, working super long hours, never hanging out with your friends, and having no time to spend the money you made till you either get fired or you leave a job.  Now there is the other side drugs this is a huge drug addiction industry . I am an alcoholic Its how I delt with my anxiety, my little to know skills to manage stress, and my lack of a social life. Coke is huge in this industry people often do coke to work more hours to do more coke to work more hours see what I am saying. Heroin is huge I worked with many people who took painkillers of the garden variety to get through a shift of work. I have seen chefs male and female who were awesome untouchable for that matter go down the tubes and lose everything because of drugs and there jobs its truly sad.

This is the real industry we call food not everyone is a drug addict but they are all adicted to the rush they get doing food if you dont get this rush doing food what ever you make you might think about another industry you are young look at the posibilities around you . I thought it was all hogwash an went to school for pastry I think back now and think I would have loved to gone to school as a sculptor to this day 20 years later I still dream of being a sculptor or a photographer and they get weekends/ holidays off .

post #42 of 43

I'd like to point out I am not a pastry chef... but from my experience of knowing pastry chefs, it isn't worth it. The art of pastry is slowly dying. Just my personal opinion though. 

post #43 of 43

I don't think the art of pastry is dying.  I think the art of eating out has changed dramatically.  Upscale restaurants are beyond the reach of the average middle class diner looking to go out to dinner on a typical weekend; the upscale place is reserved for special occasions and splurging. More frequently,  people foregoing dessert altogether; whereas they might have shared a dessert before, or they'll have another drink and not spend the $ on dessert.  The mid-level restaurants who don't have a pastry chef on staff will usually make a few easy things in house and buy in the rest.  When there's a recession, the pastry department is the first to get cut, and when the economy bounces back, the last ones to get hired again.  It seems lately that people are willing to accept mediocre, pre-made frozen desserts rather than something made from scratch by a pastry chef.

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