Advice Needed re: Wedding Cake Design and Production in Catering

Joined May 14, 1999
I was hired about 2-years ago to serve as the working chef of a catering hall in Troy, MI. My primary duties have been in savories and garde manger. I have done an excellent job in these matters and enjoy an excellent relationship with my owners, but would like to earn more money within my existing job. What my owners do not know is that I am a skilled cake decorator, capable with sugar craft and cake design and more than capable of meeting or exceeding the quality of cakes they have been acquiring through third-party vendors these past 24-months.

My question is, how might I approach my owners regarding this idea? For instance, I am thinking to suggest that I would agree to do all cake orders "off-the-clock", asking for 1/3rd of cake revenues instead of an hourly pay rate (they would get the remaining 2/3rd's). I would like to suggest that offering in-house decorating services would help increase their revenues and give them more customer services and marketing opportunities. 

Last, what if a bride were to request a technically challenging cake for a wedding event a year or more into the future, and I were to quit or get fired before that time is up? I was thinking to suggest that I would sign a contract for each job booked to insure my owner's legal rights?

What say you? If you are a caterer with a strong chef on your payroll who you later find out to be a competent cake decorator as well, what type of an agreement would you be most responsive to?

Thank you!
Joined May 5, 2010
Years ago I was an Exec. Chef for a banquet house, and I was up against the same thing. I had an in-house pastry Chef who had the knowledge and experience to offer our brides many ideas for wedding cakes and such.At the time I used my Pastry Chef for making baguettes, and small pastries for our parties.

After consulting with her, I approached management about using her talents to offer wedding cakes to our perspective brides, as well as our outside offerings.

The work became a little too much some months, (especially in June when everybody wants to get married.) Having to prepare bread, pasties AND cakes became a little too much and I found I had to have some cooks take on some of the baking to give P Chef some slack.

It did work its' way out over time and our P Chef was more than capable to prep all the work. 

I did give her a raise, and her offerings were priced out and we added them as a "plus" on our banquet menus.

I did not make any other agreements with the Pastry Chef.

To me, this employee is just like any other, that has an ability to enhance and evolve our business.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
I think your idea is a good one for both of you, as long as it does not conflict with your present duties. In May & June it could prove to be a bit much.

If you have some photos of your work show it to the owners. Get them involved in conversation around the photo's telling them they should consider using your talents. I did the same thing only in carving ice on my own time. I made money and my bosses made a lot more then before when they bought the statues elsewhere.
Joined Sep 28, 2010
Good Morning, Chef

This response comes from the business consultant side of me...not as a pro or even rank amateur, pastry chef.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif

Most owner/entrepreneurs are willing to listen to new proposals, particularly those where a trusted employee offers to increase their profits with no cost or effort on their part whatsoever!  Do you really only need 1/3 or the total to cover your extra labor and supplies?  Make sure you map this out accurately, so you're not losing money on the arrangement.

When you propose your idea, its always best to start small.  Example...take one order per month, and go thru a total cost/time/profit write up. Also think about what would happen if you were working on one of these 'side' jobs and the mixer motor happened to die on your watch.  Who pays for these things?  Once you are confident that this will work (and are showing the numbers to support it), then increase the number of orders you take.  I would also cover who 'owns' the additional recipes or customers acquired.  If you are taking on all of the costs and essentially renting their kitchen, these belong to you.  But, many feathers have been ruffled in just such a situation (facebook ownership is our current example) its good to talk it out ahead of time.

Well, i'm sure thats enough information ...nothing like an accountant to kill a buzz over a great idea!  This is why we dont get invited to many parties-but these are questions you must ask.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif

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