What does a pastry chef do? (And how to become one)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Within a professional kitchen, there are many different types of chefs who are responsible for producing specific items on the menu. The pastry chef is one of these and is mostly in charge of producing baked foods and desserts. If you're interested in becoming a pastry chef, it can be useful to know what the role entails and what the requirements are. In this article, we explain what a pastry chef is, what one does, how you can become a pastry chef and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is a pastry chef?

In a professional kitchen, there are usually several stations, and each of these produces specific things for the kitchen. A station chef is in charge of each station and may go by other names like line chef, line cook and chef de partie. In many kitchens, these are also the only individuals working in that area, although in larger establishments they may have some assistants helping them. The pastry chef is one of these station chefs. They're in charge of producing pastries, other baked items and desserts. Another name for a pastry chef is pâtissier.

Related: What are the different types of chefs? (With salaries)

What does a pastry chef do?

Understanding what a pastry chef does can help you to decide if this is the career you want to pursue. The responsibilities of a pastry chef may vary depending on the establishment they're working at, especially since many pastry chefs work in places other than restaurants. Since they're in charge of baked goods and desserts, this means that they know how to make a wide variety of items. This can include doughnuts, chocolates, biscuits, pies, cakes, custards, breads, tarts and ice cream. In addition to making these items, pastry chefs can also be responsible for the following:

  • Overseeing others: In larger kitchens, a pastry chef might several assistants or commis chefs who help them produce the necessary items. In this case, as a station chef, they'd be in charge of the work in this area.

  • Creating new recipes: As the pastry chef is in charge of preparing desserts and baked goods, they're often researching and developing new recipes and items for the menu. They might do this independently or with the head chef.

  • Plan menus: Along with the head chef and other station chefs, the pastry chef typically helps develop the menu for the establishment. This can include variations and seasonal menus.

  • Supervise training: Many kitchens have several chefs in training, such as commis chefs, and if any of these aspire to become pastry chefs, then a pastry chef would usually supervise and instruct them.

  • Ordering supplies: Since they're in charge of their own station and its outputs, pastry chefs often order supplies or go and acquire them independently. This can often include a set budget that the chef receives, and they might want to negotiate and find the best suppliers.

  • Maintaining the kitchen: The pastry chef's station is their responsibility, and this includes how clean and organised it is. A pastry chef maintains their area of the kitchen and ensures that any cooks they supervise do the same.

How to become a pastry chef

In many cases, you can become a pastry chef with no certifications or formal education, as experience is often the most important factor. Despite this, it can still be a good idea to get some formal training as this can increase your chances. If you want to become a pastry chef, consider following the steps below:

1. Start cooking at home

Although formal training can equip you with the necessary skills, it's almost always a good idea to start cooking and experimenting at home. This can introduce you to a lot of the basic skills and concepts necessary, which can make any training you undertake easier. Moreover, if you decide against formal training, you're going to want some skills in the kitchen to find a job. If you're interested in becoming a pastry chef, then it's a good idea to focus on baking, pastries and desserts.

You can acquire a cookbook, watch a cooking show or find online recipes that you can follow. If you eat out at a nice restaurant and find something you really liked, try to recreate it at home. It's also a good idea to cook for others, such as family and friends, as this can give you valuable feedback.

2. Find a professional training course

There are many places where you can find a formal training course to help you become a pastry chef. These have varying but similar names, such as a Diploma in Patisserie, a Diplôme de Pâtisserie or Patisserie and Confectionery. A good way to find the right course is to look at job advertisements for roles that you'd like to apply for in the future. Look at their requirements and see if any particular certifications appear, and you can then pursue these.

Related: Your guide to chef apprenticeships (and how to get started)

3. Get work experience

Once you have some preliminary experience or a diploma, you can apply to work in professional kitchens and similar establishments. It's important that you look for work at a pastry chef's station, either as a trainee or assistant such as a commis chef. This can help you learn important skills from an experienced professional and become better at your job. There are also other options besides working under a pastry chef in a kitchen, such as finding work at a bakery or similar establishment that makes pastries and desserts.

4. Apply for the position of pastry chef

Once you've accumulated enough experience, you can start looking for pastry chef vacancies. You could do this with an online job search or ask people in your professional network if they know anything. At this point, you've probably got experience producing pastries and desserts and would be ready to become a line cook.

Related: How to write a chef CV (with a template and an example)

Frequently asked questions about pastry chefs

Below are some frequently asked questions about pastry chefs, together with their respective answers:

Where do pastry chefs work?

This can vary quite a lot, as there are many different establishments and businesses that produce baked goods and desserts. Many pastry chefs might aspire to be in charge of their own station at a reputable restaurant, although this is a personal preference. You can also find pastry chefs working in bakeries, sweet shops, cafés, bistros, catering companies, hotels and even supermarkets that produce fresh baked goods. You might even find work on a cruise ship, within the navy or at a culinary school.

How much do pastry chefs earn?

The national average salary for a pastry chef is £26,715 per year. It's important to remember that this can vary significantly based on the establishment at which you're working. The national average salary for other line cooks is slightly lower at £24,251 per year, which might indicate the importance of the pastry chef position in the kitchen.

What are the other chef positions in the kitchen?

A professional kitchen has several different positions that help it remain organised and produce food effectively. Although this can vary from one establishment to another, some of the typical roles that you're going to encounter include the following:

  • Head chef: This is the chef who's in charge of the entire kitchen, including organising tasks, managing costs and creating menus. Other names for head chef include executive chef and chef de cuisine.

  • Sous chef: This means 'under chef' in French and is the second highest position in the kitchen's hierarchy, just below the head chef. Sous chefs assist head chefs run the kitchen, fill in for them when they're away and help prepare food.

  • Line chef: A line chef is in charge of a particular station that produces specific items, such as a pastry chef, sauté chef and roast chef. Other terms for line chef include line cook, station chef and chef de partie.

  • Commis chef: This position refers to someone who's quite junior and is still learning, either because they've just completed or are still undergoing culinary training. A commis chef typically trains under a line chef to learn about the specific requirements of their station.

  • Kitchen porter: These individuals typically have little culinary training and help kitchen staff with basic tasks. This can include washing produce, peeling potatoes and kitchen cleaning.

  • Dishwasher: As the name indicates, this position is responsible for washing the cutlery and dishes of the establishment. Another term for dishwasher is escuelerie.

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