is becoming a pastry chef the smart move?

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Joined Apr 9, 2015
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 .
 
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Joined Jun 29, 2015
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. 
 
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Joined Feb 18, 2007
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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