How can you not have a sweet spot for pastries? Have you ever walked down the street right before the morning rush just so that you can take in all the amazingly delicious smells around you? If you have, you would probably be able to pick up the fumes of fresh almond butter croissants, fruit tarts, or apple turnovers making their way out of the oven and into the mouths of the day’s early birds. So, who are the people responsible for these sweet and intricate delicacies? Have you ever looked at a Napoleon before? Like, really looked at one? All of those delicate paper-thin layers of pastry fluffed up inside with whipped cream and glazed with icing. Its assembly sounds like it could require some scientific precision. Again, who are the people behind this assembly? Pastry chefs – that’s who!
While we sit down for our morning Éclair and cup of coffee, let’s dive into the job description of a pastry chef to find out what these amazing food artists are all about.
What Do Pastry Chefs Do?
Although you might envision pastry chefs simply in the kitchen baking, there are many other facets that a job as a pastry chef entails. Let’s take a look at some of them here. Pastry chefs are responsible for:
Food Prep: Pastry chefs need to know how to prepare all of the items that fall under the “pastry” category. These include, but are not limited to: cakes, cupcakes, ice creams, custards, soufflés, and tortes. Food preparation involves everything that needs to be done before the actual baking process can commence. A pastry chef will need to: peel, wash, measure, organize, and distribute all of the ingredients that they and their team need to work with for the day. Once everything is laid out, the pastry chef will have to make sure that each ingredient, food item, and utensil is fresh, clean, and ready for proper use. This is especially crucial if the pastry chef has a team under them, which is usually the case in a large kitchen. Once baking can commence, the pastry chef is expected to oversee and supervise the cooks and bakers that are in his or her unit. Additionally, the pastry chef can be responsible for baking and preparing certain items as well.
Recipe Creation: In addition to following general recipes and guidelines for popular pastries, a pastry chef is also given the opportunity to create their own pastries from scratch. Being able to practice and execute creativity is a favorable skill for any chef. They will also need to write detailed measurements and instructions for anyone else to be able to interpret the recipe.
Menu Planning: For a pastry chef working at a restaurant, they will need to be able to handle menu planning as well. This has to do with pairing certain dishes that will go with their dessert and testing savory items find their best sweet counterparts.
Food Safety: When you are preparing items that will be ingested by a large number of people, you have to put a lot of attention in ensuring that the food is safe for public consumption. Pastry chefs need to be aware of such things as: room temperature, raw items, and ensuring that everything is kept covered and handle in a sanitary fashion by restaurant or other employees.
Administrative Duties: Again, pastry chefs are generally in charge of all the ingredients and equipment that enters their kitchen. Therefore, they are responsible for inventory count, making and placing orders for equipment, and making sure that everything is handled properly by their staff.
Budgets: Since it is their pastries that will go out the door, pastry chefs also handle the budget for the pastry department within the restaurant or bakery that they work at.
Essential Skills for A Pastry Chef
Now that you are aware of the job duties that a pastry chef will encounter during their daily routine, let’s take a look at the skills needed for a job as a pastry chef. These are good to know for anyone thinking about beginning a career as a pastry chef as well!
- Creativity: If you have ever really looked at a pastry before shoveling that sweet goodness into your mouth (we know it is hard!), then you will begin to notice the creativity and detail that goes into each individual one. Pastry chefs need to be able to use what they are given and turn it into something visually marvelous and equally yummy.
- Leadership: Just like any other job, as the head of a bakery or dessert kitchen in a restaurant, a pastry chef will need to know how to manage and work adequately with a group of other works. They will need to be able to delegate, hire, and motivate their staff and workers in a high stress environment.
- Coordination: Being a pastry chef is a lot about detail, as they work with knives, sharp kitchenware, precision tools, and icing on a daily basis. Just like any other chef, a pastry chef will have to have a certain technique when handling and preparing their food, and therefore, things such as hand and eye coordination are key in creating a good product.
- Taste Buds: It should go without saying that cooks and pastry chefs need to have a strong and sensitive palate that works in line with knowing what their customers want. Obviously, pastry chefs will have no business if their pastries are not palate-pleasing to their customers.
- Time Management: If you have ever been to the back of a restaurant or food place, you would know that things are pretty chaotic most of the time. As a pastry chef, you will need to be able to plan accordingly to make sure that pastries are made on time and ready for specific hours. Also, you will need time management skills when determining when to use certain ingredients, because a lot of delicates and sweets are made with things that expire and ruin easily.
End on a Sweet Note
Now that you know what the job as a pastry chef entails, consider taking your love for Éclairs, Chocolate croissants, or cream puffs to the next level and begin taking the steps to become a pastry chef today!