To move into pastry or not to move into pastry ....

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by jingle, Oct 22, 2013.

  1. jingle

    jingle

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    ... that is my question. 

    So, all of you seasoned pastry chefs, I need some advice. I have worked in health policy/health care my entire career (about 17 years) and I now hate it. I'm burnt out and day dream about being a pastry chef with my dream job working in a tea room doing pastry and being a tea sommelier. I'm a great home baker and know a lot about tea but need some straight up advice on whether or not to quite my policy gig and pursue pastry. I have the following questions:

    1) Culinary School: I have heard both yes and no on this. Some I've asked have said don't bother and start by getting experience in a bakery or restaurant others I've asked and read on other blogs have said its beneficial. I've looked into the culinary schools in my area and it is quite expensive. I could probably swing tuition but I'm wondering if its worth going into debt or just get experience instead. 

    2) Salary and Benefits: I make a decent salary now (around 65K) and I want to follow my passion for pastry but I'm worried about the difference in salary. I've read the hours and salary can be low and that there is no health insurance for most bakers/pastry folk. Is there really no health insurance or 401Ks for chefs? 

    3) Hours: I've also read/heard that the hours can be murder. I'm used to working really hard now (probably average about 55 hours a week) but I'm wondering what the typical hours are. 

    4) Bakery, Restaurant, Bakery in a Grocery Store?: Where is the best place to start to maximize the best hours, salary, etc... 

    Thanks all for any and all advice! 
     
  2. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Get yourself a copy of the the book The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck from Abebooks.com.  Along with a copy of the BAKERS COMPANION from KingArthur books.  Both books will whet your appetite for baking, from Abebooks.com.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2013
  3. siduri

    siduri

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    Really, kokopuffs?  I never liked paula peck.  I thought she was snobby as all getout.  I was given a copy over 35 years ago but i don't think i've ever been drawn to make anything from it!  funny,.  I don't know the other one. 
     
  4. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    I've never met the person but enjoy her book.  And I've gotten good baking information from both books.
     
  5. siduri

    siduri

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    I meant I found what she wrote pretentious, i thought. I don;t know her either of course.   Someone gave the book  to me in the 70s and i remember it seemed like her attitude was that if it wasn't french it wasn't good, and if a cookie didn;t have perfect borders it wasn't worth making.  But i don't know about her actual recipes.  If i recall there was no actual "butter cake" as we would call it - just sponge and genoise, neither of which I like, and a pound cake.  Could be that the book i was given was a tiny paperback and it wasn't very good to use while cooking!

    I keep reading here about the king arthur book, which sounds interesting. 
     
  6. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Here book is more like a recipe book that could use a bit of editing and takes a bit of experience to execute well.  Ruhlman's book Ratio would be a great 'primer' (much simpler to use) however, before moving on to Ms. Peck's book.  Back in the 70s I struggled using her book but no more thanks to Ruhlman and the simplicity he invokes.
     
  7. siduri

    siduri

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    Koko, I didn't find her book hard to use in terms of directions.  It was just that it was a small paperback that didn't stay open on the table!  But mainly I wasn't really attracted to her recipes.  I've pulled it out again and again over the years, and still don't find anything that i want to make that i don't have a better recipe for elsewhere.  They were easy enough to follow, even in the 70s, since i had some background already from julia child's books, so i knew all the techniques, but i just don't like the selection.  I'm not crazy about dry european cookies, or cakes that require syrup to make moist.  So that's mainly a question of personal preference. 

    Stimulated by this thread, I pulled it out again and looked through it.  Her dobostorte is really badly explained and full of serious problems.  Instead of making the 6 layers separately, baking them as thin pancake-like cakes, which is the characteristic of the dobostorte, she has you cutting up two layers, worrying about them drying out and cracking ("if they crack, just put them together"), etc.  Compared to Barbara Maher's original recipe in "cakes" (not the one in her "ultimate cakes") - there is no comparison, neither for the cake nor the filling.  Cooking them as pancake layers in the oven on the bottom of the cake pan put upside down is not just a refinement or an attempt at "authenticity" but is a question of taste of the final product.  Being baked like that there is no cut edge to absorb the filling, so you have the soft cake and soft filling, distinct, but contrasting, not mushed together.  The cut surface absorbs more filling than the baked surface, which has no holes.  Her method is just making a bunch of layers from two spongecakes and putting an ordinary butter cream between them - too buttery, tends to get hard in the fridge because of it, etc.  Maher's version stays soft because it contains cream as well as butter.   

    As a fan of toll house cookies and oatmeal cookies, i remember being irritated at her blanket statement about the superiority of drop cookies being made with a pastry bag instead of the uneven affairs usually made at home.  You don;t have to like them, but there is a certain appeal to a cookie that is rough in appearance and chewy in texture, and you can say it's not "fine baking" if you want, but i found her approach too snobby.  I'll take a toll house cookie over a langue de chat any day!  Wouldn't you?
     
  8. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Actually, I'm neither a cake nor cookie fan and so can't comment on either area.  I only focused on her tarte recipes since that was my goal then as it is now.  :)  And I once owned the paperback edition (purchased 1977) and switched to an older, hardback edition just recently that lays flat.  And that was the one book on baking that was recommended to me at time.  Again, no internet, you-tube etc etc way back then.
     
  9. siduri

    siduri

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    Well, i can see why you'd use it, (especially in the hardcover edition /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif) - and if you're not a cookie and cake fan, all the more so.  There are just other books that i found better for pastry (i got my tarte recipe from the time life french provincial cooking book). 
     
  10. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    At the time, during the '70s as now, tart recipes were/are all over the board and I was seeking something simpler and more basic.  That's what Ruhlman provided.  Flour, fat, water and salt instead of two eggs here, a couple of boiled eggs plus a fresh egg and extra yolk there.  I needed something simple and basic rather than complicated and more 'expensive' as it were.

    And never back then did I ever read that dough should be chilled in plastic wrap shaped into a disc.  It was a sphere wrapped in wax paper and imagine rolling out tarte dough from a sphere and the frustration I felt.
     
  11. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    answers to questions

    1.) I would highly suggest working in the industry for at least a year before deciding whether to attend culinary school or not

    2.) You will be lucky to make half as much as you are presently making, starting out probably about 1/3; health care and 401s can be had but are more the exception than the rule

    3.) hours will probably be similar

    4.) bakery in a grocery store will probably be best wages and benefits because more likely to be unionized
     
  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Reading the op's questions, I apologize for having kinda' hijacked this thread.  But Cheflayne is correct.
     
  13. siduri

    siduri

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    I was thinking the same thing myself, koko, and though part of the enjoyment of these forums is to see where they go, if someone asks a question, they do need an answer.
     
  14. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    delete delete delete
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013