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How to Become a Pastry Chef

Career News July 8, 2014

A pastry chef is a culinary professional who specializes in cookies, cakes, confections, chocolates, and other delicious treats. Pastry chefs typically work in restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and hotels, crafting and decorating large quantities of baked goods for individual customers and catered occasions. Along with having the right education and training, this particular career path also requires artistry, passion for cooking, and a strong attention to detail.

Pastry Chef Education Requirements

The educational requirement to have a career as afor becoming a pastry or dessert chef isn’t a strict one. Some pastry chefs get training through an employer-sponsored on- the- job training program, but a large number of chefs go and acquire some kind of post- secondary education/training.

Chefs may choose to pursue formal training through a degree or certificate programs that are available at four4-year colleges/universities, community colleges, culinary training institutes, and technical schools. A chef may also enter the profession via apprenticeship programs.

What to Expect from a Pastry Chef Formal Training Program

Students who attend a culinary arts training program, like the Associate of Applied Science in Baking and Pastry Arts, will be equipped with practical and technical skills needed for having a career in pastry arts. This two- year degree courses program are is typically made up of in-kitchen and classroom instructions, and most times require students to complete trainings/externships in commercial kitchens. The courses may consist of:

•Specialty cakes
•Baking fundamentals
•Sanitation and safety
•Cake design
•Plated desserts
•Chocolate arts
•Culinary management


A lot of chefs are trained in pastry and dessert art through an apprenticeship program. These apprenticeship programs are available through culinary associations such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF). This association offers ACF student members apprenticeship – the students are registered with the United States Department of Labor.

The apprenticeship programs last for a period of 2 to 3 years and also offer a paid on- the- job trainings under the supervision of certified pastry chefs. As an apprentice, one is expected to complete twelve formal courses in culinary courses like nutrition, food safety, and management. Upon completion of the apprenticeship programs, students may be awarded with an associate’s degree or professional credentials.

Pastry Chef Certification

Although not compulsory, a lot of pastry chefs choose to display culinary skills by earning a professional certification. The American Culinary Federation offers 4 four levels of certification for pastry and baking professionals. Each certification will require different amounts of training, education, and experience.

The Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC) title is the lowest level of certification in the field, and this certification is available to pastry chefs with a high school diploma (or its equivalent) and 2 two years of entry-level, pastry arts know-how. On the other hand, pastry chefs with certifications and 12 months experience or an associate’s degree with little or no experience at all are also qualified for CPC.

Salary Information

According to the United States’ Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for chefs and head cooks as of May 2012 was $42,480.

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