Help. WHat's it like being a pastry chef?

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by bigash, Jan 25, 2002.

  1. bigash

    bigash

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    I'm looking into entering the culinary field. I am still in high school and want to find out about what any pastry chefs, bakers or small restraunt/coffee shop/bakery owners did for school. how you got started, and anything about the lifestyle, what kind of hours do you work? Is it difficult to get into, where and how can I get a foot in the door now? Anything will be appreciated. Thanks!:confused:
     
  2. momoreg

    momoreg

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    Welcome to Cheftalk, bigash.

    I recommend that you take some time to read through the posts in the students forum. The questions that you ask are some of the most frequently asked questions that people need answered before entering the field, and you may find most of your answers there.

    If you still have questions, please don't hesitiate to ask.
     
  3. annie

    annie

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    Hi - I live near Boston, MA, and just finished an apprenticeship with a master French pastry chef. Finding a job right now is TOUGH! Everyone tells me that 'there are always baker jobs' but... I make the rounds, I network, I had cards printed with my phone # and email, to make it easy for people to keep my contact information in case of an opening. I'll let you know what happens! The chef I apprentices with dropped back from owning his own shops, to wholesaling to fine restaurants and hotels. He works from 8 am to at least 11pm every day - and wants to develop his school and books because that's just too much after 30 years in the business.
    I've ordered )butr haven't gotten or read yet) a book called "The Making of a Pastry Chef" maybe it would help you too? I'd balance it with the bitterness that I've seen in posts here. But as a career changer, I can tell you that a lot of jobs for women are low pay, low creativity, low influence, long hours. At least I love baking!
    Good luck -
     
  4. panini

    panini

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    "I'd balance it with the bitterness that I've seen posted here"

    There might be some bitterness and negetivity here,BUT, I think that stems from wanting to paint a realistic picture of the industry. Most of us are aware that there are some learning institutions and such who paint a pretty picture and then WHAM!
    The fact is that you won't hear something good for everything you hear bad.
    Also. one does not have to work 15 hrs a day to make a living. It is not that hard to own your own business, the hard part is making it sucessful.
    Bigash,
    I went to culinary school before you and many here were born. Apprenticed ( sad to think about it) at W in NY. I did the hotel circuit, upscale restaurant circuit, and am now a bakery owner. hrs. 5 am to 3:30 m-f , 7-finish sat. couple of operations. Very comfortable living.
    Lifestyle? This business really requires unconditional support from partner and family. Most people don't understand what drives us.
    The best of luck to you in whatever you may choose.
    jeff
     
  5. m brown

    m brown

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    well said panini!

    a woman worked at our restaurant for about a month, she was 50 ish(looked and acted lots yonger) and wanted to work in a kitchen and probibly own her own place. well she walked out of there saying that "this is really hard work!" and something about her chi was off, and she was really tired.
    i laughed really hard, had no one ever told her it was a hard job?
    now there is a new guy, 20 ish, said,"man you guys stand alot!! i am not used to standing for more than 20 min."

    we just want people to know, it is really hard to cook/bake and you must love it and be willing to give up "normal" stuff!


    :bounce:
     
  6. m brown

    m brown

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    so anywhoo,
    i started at 13 with a decorating class at a local bakery then got a job at the bakery. went to a culinary school and started working at hotels, restaurants and my own freelance and teaching. love the teaching!!!
    that is how i did what i did for pastry.


    :)
     
  7. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    I don't call myself a "pastry chef", just a pastry cook. I started baking when I was little by helping my aunt, who's a baker. Ok so I spent lots of time getting to lick the bowl when she was done. A few tummy aches later, I got to mix the cake batter by myself when I was 5.

    Unfortunately, my country (Barbados) is really sexist. Girls are required to take sewing and cooking classes from 6 years until you leave high school. Right now Im set because my MIL owns a restaurant and Im the Pastry Cook. I would hate for anything to happen to our little place because I know how hard it is to find a cooking position.
     
  8. annie

    annie

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    Hey M Brown! I'm 50ish, etc. looking for a restaurant /bakery job since finishing my apprenticeship. I know it's hard work, and I've done pick up jobs to see if I can hack it before making a commitment. I worked at a farmstand during nay ride/foliage season, cranking out dozens and dozens of heavy trays of muffins, cookies, doughnuts. The ladies who hand-washed my mixer bowls were in their 70s - and lifting a big Hobart bowl filled with water is not trivial!

    Sorry - I know you were not age discriminating. But as someone who knows a little about the pressure, concentration, work required - and STILL looks forward to a job in baking - got any suggestions for how to communicate that with an employer? I've thought about offering myself for a probationary period at a reduced rate - just to prove I'm worth taking a chance on. I know that beginners take time and effort to train, and employers are reluctant to take risks!
     
  9. bakerchik

    bakerchik

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    while we are on the subject of learning, may i have all of your professional opinions?

    i am currently attending the culinary institute of america (cia) and contemplating whether or not it is worth staying here for my bachelor's degree. i hear all sorts of things from different people and i am wondering if everyone in the industry stereotypes cia grads as conceited know-it-alls. would it matter if i have an associate degree or a bachelor degree? any input is greatly appreciated!
     
  10. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I don't want to address your question in regards to a culinary education....but in general terms. I think getting a bachelors degree is liberating...in this regard: if you ever choose to pick up some further education you'll be going back and starting in an easier position. Requirements for associates degrees do change over the years and if in 20 years or so you choose to go back to school you might have a harder time applying your classes to your new major.

    I'm a firm believer in bachelors degrees, regardless of your field of study.
     
  11. momoreg

    momoreg

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    It all depends on how much you feel you're getting from being there, and whether or not you feel you could learn the same thing on the job. Also, it depends on what your plans are for after you graduate, and whether those extra 2 years will lend itself to your plans.

    Sure, there are a lot of people who stereotype CIA grads that way. Doesn't mean you fit that stereotype, and it doesn't mean that you can't prove them wrong.
     
  12. panini

    panini

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    It's usually a requirement(at least here) to teach culinary arts. Ya know, when your old, feet,hands,back hurting, burned out, you know around 25. You might decide to teach.
     
  13. bakerchik

    bakerchik

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    Thanks for the input!
     
  14. culinarian247

    culinarian247

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    :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


    Should I worry, I'm 27 already?!?!?!
     
  15. shimmer

    shimmer

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    bigash-

    I decided I might want to go into the food industry about two years ago. I got a part-time job at a bakery and was garde manger at a restaurant (THAT was a lot of standing, app. 16 hours a day) where I was put in charge of making desserts because the "guys" hated baking. Strangely I liked it enough that I quit graduate school. I'd prefer a real job, sweaty and hard work, over the world of academia every day. I came home less exhausted from a long restaurant night of running around the kitchen plating salads and desserts and chopping veg than I did from having to sit through a 3 hour class talking about the difference between phonemic and phonetic.

    I worked as a cake decorator for about six months and couldn't do it anymore. If it had been my own business, where I could separate the customers from my workspace, I might have lasted longer, but it was a huge high-rich-customer volume, and it was STRESSFUL. My last day was New Year's Eve last year. From there I worked three weeks at Wal-Mart cake decorating (blech) and then got a job at a music library, because, well, I spent $80,000 getting a degree in music. I still have that job, but in May I also started making desserts for a local tearoom. Both of my jobs are part-time, but when I bake, I bake for 6-7 hours with no break. I couldn't live on what I make, but I'm married. I like my pastry job, because we dont' have a set dessert menu, so I make whatever I feel like making, as long as I'm prepared to feed the 250 or so people that eat there daily.

    When I say I'm still at the fork in the road, I'm in the midst of deciding a more direct career path. I have thought about opening my own tearoom or B&B, and I have also considered becoming a librarian. I'm not sure my creative capacity is large enough for a career in pastry, nor am I certain my body could take it long-term. I get really tired of the politics in not having a say in major decisions, so I know that if I wanted to do this long-term, I would have to own or manage something.

    However, in my experience (and this should help answer the question) people are more interested in how fast you learn and how creative you can be within an acceptable cultural context (meaning, it has to sell) than what your degree is. This is only my experience. Its limited, but a good work ethic is better than some letters behind your name.

    And as in all things, go with your heart. Do what you love. Ultimately that will bring you the satisfaction you are seeking.

    Amen.

    ~~Shimmer~~
     
  16. schiznick

    schiznick

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    Hello to all,

    I'm new to this forum, but I thought I'd add my opinion for what it may be worth. I'm a pastry chef working for a company that owns 7, soon to be 8 restaurants in the Midwest area. I went to a local college and got an AAS in Culinary Arts. Recently I went back to work on a BA in business. I am also certified (certifiable sometimes!) through the ACF. I can tell you my point of view from being one of only a few young women who hold managerial positions in this company. The bottom line is that your bosses want to make money. That's why anyone who is in business is. If you are providing a quality product for the customer and making money for your bosses, then you are doing a good job.

    For a young woman it can be hard, really hard sometimes to deal.
    You can be the nicest person, but working in a kitchen can sometimes be like entering an entirely different world. The longer you can stick it out and prove yourself, the better you will be. The hours can be long and demanding, but if you truly have a love for this type of work then you will come back day after day.

    My personal recommendation is some type of post- secondary culinary education. It is important to have a good foundation. However, once you enter the reality of working, just keep in mind that you should try to absorb all the information that you can. Everyone has their own system and can teach you something. I'm only 28, and try to learn more everyday. Good luck.

    schiznick
     
  17. headless chicken

    headless chicken

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    I was in your shoes about 12 months ago. I made a switch from computers and business to the culinary feilds without knowing much other then what I saw and learned on FoodTV.

    As for a pastry chef, you must love doing this. My first partner in practical class had chosen to enter baking/pastry arts by having a list of careers, closing his eyes, and point & choose. For starters, its not cheap. My entire life savings was used up and I had no financial help. I was sleep deprived for most of the year because class started at 7am where my travel time was nearly 1h. And its a messy job sometimes when working with so many raw items. These are the down sides I ran into, however, none of this bothered me because I was willing to go in debt and get dirty because I love doing this.

    If you want a little taste of what its like to work in the feild, try to find a summer job that takes you near a kitchen or you can do what I did, experiment at home. Before attending classes, I baked a lot at home for a good year. I timed how long it took me and I choose recipes that would challenge me.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do but remember to choose something you love doing.