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Advice on a career as a Pastry Chef.

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi, For years now I have been looking into a career as a pastry chef, baking is something I love and something I am very good at. I have recently been accepted into the CIA, and now I am beginning to question if this is the right career for me. I have never been under false impressions that this would be a glamorous life, I know that it will be long hours, crappy pay, and working just about every holiday.

What is leaving me to question if this is the right career for me is the fact that I also want to be a mother. I want to be able to be a mother that will see her kids for more than ten minutes a day, I want to be able to be home with them until they are school age, and even then I want to be able to get them up for school in the morning and have dinner with them in the evenings ( at least a couple days a week).

I am hoping that is someone who can give me some answers as to if the two things are even remotely possible to have together? is it possible to be a involved mother and a Pastry Chef?

post #2 of 7
Hello. I am a pastry sous chef in Boston. I have an 11 month old baby boy so I hope I can shed some light on this question since it seems like no one else is. The hard truth is you have already kind of answered your own question more out less. But I guess a lot of it depends on what you want for a career and at what point you want to start this family. I have worked my ass off to get to a point where I am far enough along in my career I could have my son. I have an amazing relationship with him. I work 8 to 5 Thur to Mon. This gives me Tuesday and wed all say with him and I get to see him a couple hours every night. That being said I don't get to spend almost any holidays with him and my vacation time is very hard to take despite technically having it. Had I had him while I was earning my bones I would have never seen him. My last job as a kitchen manager in a bakery I was working 60 plus hours a week for 27k a year. I could barely keep my marriage alive in those days never mind having to be a good father that was around. I guess a lot of it really has to do with your personal ambitions. You mentioned wanting to be a stay at home mom until your kids are school age. That's amazing and more power to you, but I can tell you if you want to be a successful restaurant pastry chef that will be near impossible. 6 years out of a kitchen I'd a lifetime and good luck getting an interview never mind a job after that gap. In todays celebrity chef culture there will be 100 people applying for that job, most with degrees and most without a gap in employment that long. But like I said earlier it depends on what your professional goal is. To many "pastry chef"means anyone who bakes,. When I say it I mean true head of a pastry department at a restaurant. I'm also talking about larger cities because that's my experience. Take what I'm saying with a grain of salt because you never really know what could happen. I just wanted to let you know that is possible to be a good parent and a good pastry chef but maybe not possible to be amazing at both. Its a sad truth but I struggle constantly with the balance. Good luck and pm me if you have any more questions. Also I wrote this from my cellphone so sorry if there's any crazy typos
post #3 of 7

I work in a very high-end hotel restaurant. This is what i have discovered from working here:: restaurants that can afford it generally try not to burn out their staff. it is not in their favor to do so. Obviously, the majority of the restaurant business is dictated by the long hours and crappy pay you have described, but you have to be on the lookout for the exceptions that will give you the kind of life you truly want. It's possible. they are there. i'm not pastry, but even i work a pretty reasonable 45 or so hours a week and all of us get paid enough to live comfortably, although certainly  not luxuriously. i generally work 2pm-11pm. i get days off, and all of my mornings are free to do as i please. if i had a family i could totally see a situation where instead of having dinners together as a family we would instead have breakfast together, i would have the kids in the morning and he would pick them up from school in the evening. i could cook dinner my days off. it's not ideal, sure, but people have held families together in much worse scenarios than that. of the pastry chefs i work with, most of them come in very early in the morning, and all of them (except for the one or two who will run the station through the dinner service) are gone by 6. many of them are married and have steady relationships, although i don't think any of them have children yet. but it is possible!!

 

i'm also a girl, pretty fresh out of school myself, and i won't claim to have much experience to speak of, im just someone who got really lucky, more or less. but i also have that dream of settling down and having a family and like you, i want to be there for them. I just share this to let you know you're not alone out there and that as unglamorous as the restaurant industry is, I've also found from working in it that there are a lot of things that are not at all as i expected from the horror stories i was told before i started cooking. there are also a lot more opportunities and different kinds of cooking-related careers out there than i was ever even aware of. so, all to say, keep your chin up and your hopes high and don't worry too much right now (unless the family thing is more imminent than you let on) and just follow your dream for now. it will all work out if you want it to, and life will surprise you.

 

Gabrielle Hamilton's book, Blood Bones and Butter might be interesting for you. she is a woman who is a head chef and owner of her own restaurant in NYC. she is also a mother to two small boys. i know one of the chapters is specifically about women in this industry, and some of the challenges she faced trying to be a mother and a chef-owner. maybe it won't all apply to you (and i'm sure you won't envy her crazy schedule) but it's interesting nonetheless, a good book, and a good perspective on some of the harsher realities of restaurant life.

post #4 of 7

I love when people use the phrase "I love baking" as a good justification for becoming a pastry chef... Those people usually quit after their first job and go into retail or some sort of administrative capacity. 

 

$0.02

post #5 of 7
I really believe you can exceed your dreams as a pastry chef as long as you are good as you say! Don't waste your money on culinary school, invest in your own shop. Be great!
post #6 of 7

Oh and by the way. ALL hours suck in foodservice if it is not what you want.

post #7 of 7

@darkrose94:

 

Reading your post has inspired me to join, just so I could share some advice with you.

 

What others have told you is true. It is possible, but it can be very difficult, especially early in your career.

 

When my wife became pregnant with our first child, I retired.  Luckily, I could afford to because I had already been in the business for many, many years.  I was the chef in a restaurant.  I began cooking 43 years ago.  Yes, I am older than my wife.  She wanted to concentrate on her career and have a family.  As a new Registered Dietitian, she had a lot of ambition of things she wanted to do, and she has been doing them over the last few years. Our oldest daughter is now 3 1/2 years old and our youngest is 8 months old.  If I had not elected to stay at home with the children, we might not have made it.

 

Let me point something out... if you want to breast feed your children, then being a pastry chef may be even more difficult to achieve.  If you aren't going to be with the baby, then you have to pump every four hours, which can be difficult on the best of jobs, much less a job with the responsibilities of a pastry chef.  You must have a husband that is extremely supportive and is willing to pitch in and do things to help out without being asked to do them.  If you have the kind of husband my sister-in-law has, where she comes home after working 2 jobs, he had the day off playing video games on the couch, and asks her what she is going to cook for dinner, then it may not be feasible. 

 

In the absolute best of situations, you will lose a lot of sleep during the first few months, possibly six months of the child's life.  Also realize that most women will not sleep well during the last months of a pregnancy, because they cannot get comfortable.  This will take a toll on a career in a hurry.  If you breast feed, you have to get up during the night to either feed the baby or use a breast pump, because it must be done every four hours for the first year of the baby's life, because it is best to best feed for the first year.  That equates to over a year without proper sleep.  My wife is putting herself through this torture while working as a Dietitian, because she is determined to have a successful career.  On top of her normal job, she has been serving on the state board of dietitians, and is now also the editor for our state's dietitian manual.  She's not a pastry chef, but has still taken on a lot of responsibilities.  She is doing well at her job and all her other work, but partly because I am so supportive of it.  She is still so tired at times she is ready to throw in the towel, but I won't let her and I keep encouraging her, because I know she can do it.  Currently, I'm telling her she'll start getting sleep in October, just hang in there. 

 

I do everything for her around the house.  She doesn't have to lift a finger, except to give the baby a bath, because she wants to do that.  I cook, clean, do laundry, mow the lawn, etc.  I pack her lunch and get everything ready for her to leave in the morning.  She only has to get up, get a shower, dress, eat the breakfast that I have timed to be on the table by the time she finishes her makeup, kiss us goodbye and leave. It works well.  More than likely, at least in most cases, you may have to do a good amount of the work around the house, take care of the children, AND do a job that will most likely require 60+ hours per week.  I used to work between 65 and 90 hours per week on a regular basis.  I only worked the 65 hours at times I had to call in sick with the flu.  Not everyone works that crazy, but I worked multiple jobs.  Usually 60 hours as a chef, and 30 as a computer programmer.  Yes, I have multiple loves in life.  It's why I could afford to retire and stay home with my beautiful children.  You probably can't afford to wait until your mid 40's to have children, and probably don't want to wait until then to start your career.

 

I don't want to discourage you from doing what you love.  By all means, do it if you can!  There is more to consider about it than how hard the job will be, because you also have to consider how job the hard of a mother is.  I know how hard that part of the job is, because I've been playing the part of a stay-at-home-mom for over 3 years now (except I'm the Dad.)

 

Best of wishes in whatever you decide to do.  And whatever you decide, stay determined and focused on doing the very best you can, whether as a pastry chef or as a mom, because both are awesome jobs.

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