Be an Apprentice Pastry Chef: Training Information and Duties

Research the requirements to become an apprentice pastry chef. Learn about the job description and duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in pastry.

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Should I Become an Apprentice Pastry Chef?

Apprentice pastry chefs work under the supervision of trained professional pastry chefs or executive chefs. Duties vary depending on the type and size of a food establishment, but they generally include portioning individual ingredients, organizing equipment and beginning the initial steps of a recipe, such as mixing batter or making dough. Apprentice pastry chefs might assist more experienced chefs with complex tasks, such as assembly and decoration of a cake. It's also common for the supervising chef to assign an apprentice to a specific item for the day; for example, a pastry chef might bake bread or work exclusively with confections. Entry-level pastry chefs share many duties with higher-level chefs, but they aren't responsible for recipe development, menu creation or inventory management.

Chefs almost always remain on their feet while working. While most pastry chefs work on a full-time basis, their apprentices might be required to work irregular hours, including early mornings. Because kitchens can be dangerous - from hot surfaces to slippery floors - there is risk of personal injury or illness while working as an apprentice pastry chef.

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Career Requirements

Education Required High school diploma or GED at minimum; apprenticeships are offered through postsecondary training programs at various levels
Field of Study Pastry arts, culinary arts, baking, hospitality
Certification Voluntary certification is offered through professional organizations, such as the American Culinary Federation or the Retail Bakers of America
Key Skills Strong written, verbal and mathematical skills; ability to work independently and as a team; sharp eye for detail; ability to manage deadlines; comfort working with sharp knives and other pastry-making tools; ability to lift heavy objects and stand for long periods of time
Salary $23,600 (2014 median salary for all bakers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Culinary Institute of America, Online job postings (October 2012), American Culinary Federation, Pastry chef apprenticeship programs.

Step 1: Complete a Pastry Chef Apprenticeship Program

Pastry chef apprenticeship programs combine on-the-job training with professional education and coursework to prepare students for a baking career. Apprenticeship training may be combined with diploma, certificate or degree programs offered by colleges, culinary schools and technical schools. One can also complete an apprenticeship through a professional organization, such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The length of the apprenticeship varies according to the program. Diploma and certificate programs last roughly 12 months. Associate's degree programs last about 1-2 years, and bachelor's degree programs take up to 4 years to complete. Common courses include food safety, culinary math, baking, nutrition, menu planning and culinary arts. The amount of hands-on hours spent in the kitchen also depends on the program and may range from 1,000 to 6,000 hours.

Success Tips:

  • Develop strong communication skills. Working in a kitchen or bakery setting often requires a team approach. Apprentice pastry chefs have to consult with other workers in the kitchen to get ingredients, knead dough or adjust baking temperatures. Honing effective written and spoken English communication through college courses could be a good idea.

Step 2: Get a Job

After graduating from an apprenticeship, one can seek an entry-level pastry chef job. According to online job postings listed by hotels in November 2012, employers look for candidates with the ability to handle food safely. Other requirements include math skills for interpreting and preparing pastry according to a recipe, the ability to clearly communicate with other members of the kitchen staff and a desire to create attractive pastries and baked goods.

Step 3: Get Certified

Graduates of associate's degree programs may be eligible to take a certification test through the American Culinary Federation and earn the title Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC). Applicants with an associate's degree and a completed ACF apprenticeship can sit for an exam to earn the designation Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC). Years of experience can also qualify individuals for both certifications. Individuals must take practical and written exams to become certified. Certification demonstrates concrete evidence of skills and knowledge in pastry, potentially providing an edge in the job market.

Step 4: Showcase Talent

Opportunities for professional recognition are available through industry conventions, such as the national and regional conferences held throughout the year by the AFC. Pastry chefs, along with other food service professionals, can also take advantage of the accompanying workshops, demonstrations and informative discussions.

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