Questions about becoming a Pastry Chef...

Joined Feb 8, 2010
Hi everyone! My name is Kat and I have a few questions:

1. I'am 24 years old and Im dying to be a pastry chef and I now that for some years I will have crappy pay (and thats a little scary to me), but I dont care. I know hours are long I have seen chefs work all day. Im 24 and I want to go to culinary school for baking/pastry arts. I was thinking I would go for a four year degree(I do have general education credits and would not like for them to go to waste), but Im not sure if that is necessary or not. I would like to be an executive pastry chef eventually though. I was talking to this chef that I work with he isnt a pastry chef, but he said that I should also do an apprenticeship. So I thought it would be a good idea that while in school I could do an informal apprenticeship so that way I can get a solid foundation in culinary education and have experience as well for when I go out into the workforce. Is it possible to do both school and an apprenticeship at the same time?

2. Also I dont want to go to a fancy culinary school or one of those for profit schools and pay thousands upon thousands of dollars. Are there any public colleges/universities that offer four year degree baking pastry arts degrees besides CIA and Johnson and Wales? I have been looking, but I cant find anything.

3.Also is it important that I go to a school accredited by the American Culinary Federation?

Thank you for taking time to answer my questions.
Joined Feb 14, 2005
Hi Kat -
There are many different ways to achieve your goal. If you are sure you are just interested in the pastry side of cooking, you may want to consider a program that just focuses on that. It will be less expensive than a 4-year and you will get more experience in the area you will be working in.
I went to a 7-month baking & pastry program and find that there were many things I was able to experience in school that my co-workers that went through all culinary (but are now working pastry) didn't get to do.
In response to your question about other schools, I have heard of a few good community college culinary programs, but be sure to do your research first. I have also heard from people that went through programs where they didn't have enough equipment for all the students, so many classes were spent watching demos. If you are going to go the route of culinary school, it is important to be in a teaching kitchen where you have the opportunity to make the products yourself.
As far as apprenticeships go, my view is that they aren't worth it. Several places where I worked as a pastry cook also had apprentices. They weren't learning anything more than me, just getting paid less. I wouldn't let that be a deciding factor in the school you choose. Just getting a job working pastry will start you with the experience you need.
Regarding your last question, no. Once you have worked one or two jobs out of school, future employers could care less where you went to school. It matters more what kind of real world experience you get and who you know.
Good luck!
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