Some questions for chefs who DON'T have a pastry dept.

Joined Mar 6, 2001
I have many questions, but I'd like to keep things simple and start with only a couple.

I'm trying to understand what chefs and owners need in the way of desserts in hopes of finding a niche for me to fill in my own pastry business.

Besides asking that general question I'm also hoping you might be able to answer some specific questions I have or I should say I'm seeking your experienced opinion and guidance....

Would you consider hiring in for a day a pastry consultant to help teach a couple SIMPLE (yet intimadating looking) garnishes to you or someone on your staff that's responsible for your dessert plating? If the consultant came to your business, targeted 'dressing-up' and or simplifing YOUR dessert menu would you buy that service? If so, what would you pay for a day that included providing recipes with the techniques being taught?

If your manager approached you and asked if you wanted this type of input, would you?

Do your managers make most decisions on where you should purchase pastries and what you should offer, or are you free to make all your own dessert decissions?
Joined Jul 31, 2000

Great thread, I do have a pastry chef so I'll just say that I love the idea of a "pastry consultent"Many restaurants depend on pantry people to plate desserts or waitstaff. This can become a problem,especcially when you want your custermers to leave with positive ending to their meal. There are some really simple things that can make a world of difference on a plated dessert but they need to be shown to the people who will execute the dessert.

I had a guy last year come in with wonderful sugar work made from isamalt that he sold by the peice. i have to be honest with you,after I posted in the pastry chefs forum ;last year to get opinions on the stuff,I just brought it in and my pastry chef played with it until he was confortible with the product.

For a one shot deal for a consultent with recipes,demo and hands on, I would pay $75 an hour
Joined Mar 6, 2001
I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understood what you meant about the guy with the sugar?

$75.00 and hour, I was thinking that $150 for the day would be pushing it. This wouldn't be much of an idea unless it appealed to many restaurants (maybe even a few small bakeries) not just the top places who aren't scared to hire in consultants.

I don't believe you can evaluate the situation, teach someone or several people how to work a new recipe, demo how and (then the most important part) be sure the person learning really understands how to repeat what they've learned in less then 1 full day.

This is just a simple idea I have, more of a supplimental income to what I really have in mind. Since their will only be so many buyers with-in my selling area I don't see this as a long term money making opportunity, but it could be a nice way to build future customers.

Back to my core question: Is there any need you don't see being filled (as far as available pastries)? Just something simple or a simple grip, what can't you buy in or teach you staff to make that would easy your job or increase your pastry sales?
Joined Oct 6, 2001
Wendy --

Don't limit yourself to thinking just restaurants on a consulting basis --

There are lot's of catering groups (I'll leave it at that) that need/want presentation help/ideas/experience. It's somthing I am asked to do quite often -- not everone can follow through moneywise. I think that $75/hour might be pushing it in some locations but the $150/day or 4 hour morning or afternoon session could work....Ditto small hotels -- they often have bakers but not someone who is fully trained in pastry arts.

Ditto small inns and restaurant associations. Where an individual B&B or inn may not have the resources to hire someone -- the local, state or regional associations do. Often yearly conferences draw on resources from both within and outside an organization to discuss baked items, pastries and presentation. Conversely, if your area can support it, do you have the space to offer a class on garnishes and presentation? Not only for the restaurant community but to the public at-large. From what I have observed, the classes on basic garnishing, dessert garnishing and cake decorating around here always fill up fast.

I think that inorder to sell such a service, you would have to build a portfolio of side by side comparisons (okay - I'm simplifying here - but you get my point) your standard piece of cheesecake, carrot cake, etc) then an upgraded version. Maybe poll your local restaurant association or neighborhood restaurant association.
Joined Jul 2, 2001
Looks like you got some good suggestions from lynne on areas to look into. I like the idea and think that there is a need out there for that type of job. Very often you have your dessert just put on a plate and served lacking any presentation at all. As to weither there are any desserts you need I don't know. There are alot of quality(compared to what they used to be) frozen desserts out there that allow even the non-baker to put out a presentable product, although the final touches are still missing. The problem w/ alot of these items is that you have a portion cost approuching(sp) $2.00 or more. That being said if you could teach a lower cost better looking, tasting etc. product that would be good.
In the spirit of "what's in it for me" you would have to show the operartor how they could increase sales and lower the cost of those sales. I think that $250 for the day would be fair w/ maybe follow-up classes for say $175-$200 for the folks who value your service and want to continue as a inservice program. By the way I think Lynnes idea of the portfolio was great. Good luck
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Well that sounds like a lead/idea to think about: teach simple desserts that come in under $2.00 a portion and look great. There's tons of desserts that can fill that description.

Where can I find figures that show me averages on overhead, labor etc... so I could cost desserts out using 'established' numbers? This info. must be in one of the NRA magazines right? Pastry Art and design just published their annual state of the industry issue so I can get some numbers there on what's already happening. Which publication and which month will I find this info on restaurants?

Although I would be open if something like this did work out for me full time. At this moment I think of this as a slow sesson source of income. Which leads me to my next question.

When's the best time to approach different types of restaurant businesses?

For instance: At clubs June thru November are too busy. Their best to approach in Winter....Jan. thru opening day.

Caterers are much like clubs and are too busy Jun to Jan. So I wouldn't approach them until mid. Jan to May.

Restaurants? When?

B & B's?

Other businesses...?

P.S. Thank you, great ideas! There actually is a baking book that shows comparisions updating presentations "Neo Classical Desserts" (which is too advanced for non-pastry) but I know exactly what you mean.

I was thinking it would be neat to come in a week or two before a scheduled 'sesson' and photograph their desserts plated as is. Then come back with 3 plating opt. per dessert drawn out (I'm an artist too so that's cheap for me) then let them pick which desgin they like. Demo that. Spend the rest of my time making sure they can do it with-out me. Photograph the new look for their and my records.
I never thought about larger groups....

I think it's important to work their enviroment, for customer satisfaction I have to know if theirs a problem in their ovens or sheet pans that would prevent their person from suceeding. (As a caterer) I saw how much equpiment varies, also varies in accuracy. For instance bakers dial down 25 to 50 degrees when using convection ovens because the fan speeds up the baking. You also have to weight down parchment edges if your fan moves air too much....
You also can't stencil on warped pans and get a decent result. But cooks don't always understand these factors.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Wendy~you are talking about alot of work...coming in and photographing pre conference, working up recipes, drawing revised desserts, then teaching for a 4hour-day shift.....$150-250 for this...think of an hourly rate and then start adding up your costs and hours...Think of the benefits to the restaurant and sell that aspect. I think your going in I get $150-175 for a class that someone else sells and markets, pays for the product, has an assitant to help me, prints recipes all for 21/2-3 hour class.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
The Fancy Food show is at the McCormick Center in the late Spring....I go to the pre conf. classes....this seems like a good one for that venue, alot of local and regional people come to it.
So then the questions are how to you give a talk and not give away what your trying to sell....
Michael Roman has a variety of talks....he uses overheads and sells his catering book, consulting services and newsletter.
It's good to have a couple of talks "in the can" before getting on the circuit.
Joined Mar 6, 2001
I finally have my recipes in a program and I can put numbers into it (I think) and not do much but hit the print button. I would imagine having a 'set' list of desserts I can make reference to (because the sky isn't the limit!). If someone wanted more from me where I had to research and create something new, that would be a different story. I would charge a seperate fee per recipe (that would be an add-on service).

As far as plate design and garnishes it comes down to some basic formulas and layouts. I could draw out a note book of them in an afternoon (easily). Thought I could work their product into my pre-designed layouts (after all their using bought product and most if it comes in a wedge shape or circle). Garnishes break down that simple too. After all, I would have to keep garnishes and plate layouts rather basic if I'm teaching a non-pastry person. RIGHT? I could have a couple stencils (on hand to sell) and I'd basicly teach how to make 1 garnish per-plate, one plate layout per-dessert, photo it and move on. I could charge something like $150. to up-grade 3 desserts and $50. for each additional dessert item...?

Main thing is not over lapping designs (noticably) with businesses in close proxcimity (but that's hardly a worry yet). Over lap on recipes....change the flavor and you have a different product, same cost...basicly (not a big problem).

It could also work if they mailed or e-mailed me a photo of their desserts so I wouldn't have to chase (that is a problem!, but I think it's important and can't be illiminated). I'd like to taste their desserts but I'm not there to change their product, but glorify it. Or sell them some new recipes.

Make any sense? Did I miss something?

P.S. I'm not totally sure I understood all of your last post schroomgirl. Could you explain a bit more? Your telling me how I could meet propects (at the show), but I can't tip my card or someone else might attempt the same biz?
Joined Aug 11, 2000
It's add ons or additional ongoing services I was talking about.
Your base of income to suppliment consulting.

Think of drive time....Chicago is a BIG place, I'd figure that you may be going to one restaurant per day...(maybe more, but think one) how long would an average drive take....that is your time and what people are paying for.

I'd get info on mass produced goods so you have an idea of what's out there already.....what flavors are available....there could be a possibility in being a rep for different shops, taking a percentage or commission on what commercial products you sell...

From my experience dealing with alot of different restaurants it will be next to impossible to have them photograph and send you pics of their desserts.

How much does it cost to develop recipes....ingrediants, time, equipment, expertise!!! all those are costs to you....

***As with any business there will be copycats.....Chicago is a huge place...clarify your services, believe in them and sell yourself...that is what people are took me a few years to get clear who I wanted for a was not everyone who knocked on my door.
Joined Mar 6, 2001
At this time I'm basicly looking at the possiblity of consulting as a suplimental income to doing wedding cakes. Since weddings are pretty much seasonal...

I can't see 'rep.'ing happening for me, that's a full time on the road job and I would rather focus in on building my own cake business. Also the rep.'s I know deliver from the smaller bakeries. I want to stay with my abilities and interests.

As far as driving, you can't even factor that into a job in Chicago. ANY job I find will require 1 hour or more of driving each way (that's a daily fact of life here) so consulting as the job, that's the price your pay for a paycheck (at least you can schedule around the worst part of the the rush hour unlike a traditional job).

Good point about the photo's, they probably won't want to take any on their own. That's an obsticle! What to do????

It's hard to get wholesale info., the rep.s want to call on a business they don't talk on the phone. They don't print brocures/hand outs, they have little to nothing with a photo and never print prices. They play the game and protect their interests... I have some info. recieved dirrectly from companies who sell wholesale, that's about all I can get my hands on.

How to focus in on the RIGHT clients....any opinions and advice?

I've thought about banquet halls and clubs mainly (I also want to sell them my wedding cakes), who else is a good target customer for this service?
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