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What Does a Pastry Chef Do?

Pursuing a career in the pastry world requires creativity, precise technique and (of course) passion. But beyond having a love for pâte à choux and other sweet treats, what does a pastry chef do on a day-to-day basis? Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of a working chef and learn about the variety of pastry careers.

Baking and Pastry Careers in the Restaurant

Pastry chefs starting their careers in restaurants often begin as pastry cooks in the service segment of the pastry department. Responsibilities of this position include helping with ingredient preparation and providing assistance at various stations in the kitchen. After gaining some experience, cooks can work their way up into the production line and into the role of pastry sous chef, providing direct assistance to the executive pastry chef in creating many components that make up dishes.

Executive pastry chefs not only oversee all members of the their pastry staff in the kitchen, including all of the pastry cooks and sous chefs, but they also play an integral role in designing the dessert menu and testing new recipes — a role ICC alumna Rebecca DeAngelis fills as executive pastry chef at Babbo in New York City. If a restaurant includes a bread department, the executive pastry chef will also oversee its day-to-day operation as a part of the function as head of the pastry kitchen.

Pastry chefs and bakers have many career opportunities, including chocolatier.

Fulfilling the exciting role of the executive pastry chef also requires organizational skills and an in-depth knowledge of the kitchen as a business; planning and ordering necessary supplies, creating budgets and managing the workflow of the pastry staff are all responsibilities an executive pastry chef should be prepared to take on. Pastry arts students at International Culinary Center (ICC) receive a thorough education in every aspect of the pastry chef experience, plus business workshops. Highlights include 140 hours of advanced chocolate and sugar work, as well as special attention to tapping your inner creativity.

Pastry Paths Beyond the Restaurant

Pastry chefs have plenty of other baking and pastry career options outside of the traditional restaurant. Many pâtissiers make careers in catering or in hotels. Some chefs — like ICC alumna Christina Tosi, owner of Milkbar — find freedom to experiment by starting their own bakeries or shops, either as a part of a restaurant group (in Christina Tosi’s case, Momofuku) or independently. Tosi described discovering her creative niche outside the restaurant to The New York Times saying, “Certain parts of me aren’t fussy enough to make those plated desserts. It doesn’t speak to me, that delicate dreaminess.”

Many pastry chefs choose a more concentrated approach to their careers, specializing as chocolatiers, cake designers and sugar artists. ICC pastry alumni Jen King and Liz Gutman — who met at culinary school — are among the ranks of pastry arts graduates honing specific techniques by opening their own candy businesses. Liddabit Sweets, King and Gutman’s company in Brooklyn, showcases their expertise in candy-making, selling their “handmade candy bars, caramels, honeycomb candy [and] lollipops.”

While other pastry and baking professionals find their calling as bakers, others yet, like alumna of ICC New York’s Professional Pastry Arts Program and co-owner of up-and-coming Sadelle’s bakery in New York City, Melissa Weller, go on to share their craft baking the perfect breads — or in Weller’s case, the perfect bagels. As part of her quest to build a better bagel, Weller uses the knowledge she gained at ICC in “tweaking recipes, testing ovens… and brainstorming better techniques” as a part of the skills set needed to make her bakery a success.

Whether you’re utilizing the full toolbox of pastry techniques as a member of a restaurant’s pastry team or perfecting a more niche technique in a specialty store, the world of a well-trained pastry chef can be full of many opportunities and paths to sweet success.

“Of course, I wanted a bakery when I grew up. …It’s the other little-girl dream besides being a princess.” – ICC Alumna Christina Tosi, quoted in The New York Times

Starting Your Baking and Pastry Career

With so many paths available to pastry chefs, having a well-rounded pastry arts education can help you find the baking career that suits your style, arming you with the knowledge of ingredients and techniques to excel at any pastry project that comes your way.

Students are offered the opportunity to do internships during school as well, including an exclusive experience at ICC dean Jacques Torres’ world-famous chocolate businesses, rotating among different departments to see the business from a unique perspective.

Whether you’re baking cakes or pulling sugar, students at ICC learn the ins and outs of the culinary business through ICC’s Professional Pastry Arts Program. Day and evening schedules are available, with evening options having the added benefit of lower tuition.

If you’re interested in pursuing one of the many career options open to a pastry chef, request more information by filling out the form on this page, read about our Professional Pastry Arts Programs in New York and California, or apply today.

This blog post was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your pastry education where the legacy lives on.

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