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Pastry Chef and Baker Job Description, Career as a Pastry Chef and Baker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: On-the-job training, apprenticeships, or classroom training

Salary: Median—$21,330 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Pastry chefs and bakers make a variety of baked goods—from fresh loaves of bread to layer cakes—for restaurants, bakeries, and hotel dining rooms.

Restaurant and hotel bakeries supply food for a limited number of customers. Because they work with fairly small quantities, pastry chefs and bakers do much of the work by hand. They measure, weigh, and sift the ingredients, knead the dough either by hand or with a power mixer, and create breads, pies, cakes, icings, cookies, doughnuts, and delicately layered pastries. They often have assistants or apprentices who help them prepare the baked goods. Bakers and pastry chefs work side by side with fry cooks, roast cooks, and vegetable cooks. All of these cooks are supervised by a head cook or chef, who is in charge of the entire kitchen.

Some bakers work in neighborhood retail bakeries. Small local bakeries generally employ all-around bakers who are skilled in all aspects of baking. Like restaurant and hotel bakers, all-around bakers may do much of their work by hand. These shops may also employ helpers to do routine tasks such as greasing bread pans.

Industrial bakeries make large quantities of baked goods for supermarkets and other retail outlets. In large industrial bakeries, bakers specialize in one aspect of the process. All-around bakers supervise and coordinate the workers while helpers perform unskilled jobs. Much of the work at the industrial level is done in an assembly-line fashion: for example, mixers weigh the ingredients and put them into blending machines; divider machine operators control the machines that shape dough into small balls; and dough molders operate machines that shape the balls into loaves. In some bakeries bench hands do the work of both divider machine operators and dough molders. Bench hands knead the dough by hand and form it into fancy shapes such as braided bread rings. Oven tenders bake the goods, carefully watching time and temperature. Bakeries that make cakes and pastries may also employ icing mixers and icers. Some industrial bakeries are almost completely automated.

A pastry chef works to make desserts appeal to the eye as well as to the taste. (© Jim Craigmyle/Corbis.)

Education and Training Requirements

Training requirements vary. Interested individuals can train on the job for many of the positions in industrial bakeries. Bakers, mixers, oven tenders, dough molders, and other specialized production workers must have three to four years of training before they are considered experienced in their areas of specialization. Sometimes inexperienced workers are initially hired to work as general helpers in industrial bakeries.

Workers in neighborhood retail bakeries or restaurants usually train on the job as helpers. Many restaurants prefer to hire workers who have some education beyond high school. Vocational schools and two-year colleges offer courses in baking. Some bakers learn the job in the armed services. Pastry chefs are experts who generally have many years of experience as well as classroom training.

Most states require a health certificate stating that pastry chefs and bakers have no communicable diseases. Because they work near hot ovens and do a considerable amount of lifting and carrying, good health and strength are necessary. A good sense of taste, smell, and touch are also important in this field.

Getting the Job

Prospective pastry chefs and bakers can apply directly to restaurants, bakeries, school cafeterias, and industrial bakeries. Training programs are sometimes offered by industrial bakeries, but candidates may have to start out as a baker's helper before being admitted to the program. State employment offices and want ads in local newspapers may list job openings for chefs and bakers. Most industrial bakery workers belong to unions.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Production workers with industrial bakery experience can be promoted to supervisory positions where they oversee the work of the other bakers. Few workers remain at entry level for their entire careers. Most companies have an established career ladder for job advancement. With additional training, production workers can go into retail, restaurant, or hotel baking.

Some bakers decide to open their own bakeries. To be successful they need business skills and money for the substantial initial investment. Bakers may also purchase franchises such as doughnut shops that specialize in baked goods. Pastry chefs in restaurants often transfer to other restaurants to further their experience and earnings. Occasionally, talented pastry chefs become head cooks or chefs or start their own catering services.

Employment of bakers and pastry chefs should increase as fast as the average through the year 2014 due to the continued popularity of freshly baked goods.

Working Conditions

Bakers and pastry chefs work near hot ovens and stand most of the day. However, most kitchens are well lighted and convenient to use. Industrial bakery workers have to do repetitive tasks; bench hands, for example, knead dough all day long. Bakers who work in small bakeries have to work at night or extremely early in the morning so that their baked goods are fresh when customers buy them. (New methods of freezing baked goods may make late hours unnecessary in the future.) Most bakers work a forty-hour week.

Where to Go for More Information

American Bakers Association
1350 I St. NW, Ste. 1290
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 789-0300
http://www.americanbakers.org/

American Culinary Federation
180 Center Place Way
St. Augustine, FL 32095
(800) 624-9458
http://www.acfchefs.org/

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union
10401 Connecticut Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895
(301) 933-8600
http://www.bctgm.org/

Earnings and Benefits

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pastry chefs and bakers earned a median income of $21,330 per year in 2004. Union bakers usually make more. Most pastry chefs and bakers who work full time receive health and accident insurance, paid vacations, and retirement plans.

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