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What is a Pastry Chef?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

A pastry chef, or patissier, is a professional dessert maker who may work in a restaurant, bakery, cruise ship, or hotel kitchen. He or she may make pies, cakes, fresh-baked cookies, candies, chocolates, and dessert sauces. These chefs sometimes bake fresh bread, but not if the professional kitchen includes a baker, or boulanger. In general, a pastry chef works with sweetened rather than unsweetened dough.

The chef de cuisine is in charge of the entire professional kitchen. He or she plans the menu and sets the budget. The executive chef is second in command and this is to whom the patissier usually reports. The pastry chef is the head of the dessert station and oversees as well as trains his or her assistants. Plating desserts is a common task of assistant chefs.

Since head pastry chefs manage their stations, they are also responsible for planning the dessert menu, ordering ingredients, and testing recipes. All of the professional kitchen station heads typically meet regularly with the chef de cuisine and his or her executive to sample recipes and work out menu details. Like the other chefs, patissiers often use seasonal food items in their desserts.

For example, a hearty autumn meal of assorted German sausage dishes and winter vegetables may feature the pastry chef's own recipe for an apple cinnamon strudel with caramel sauce. By contrast, a light summer meal of grilled shrimp and zucchini vinaigrette may be completed with the patissier's fresh strawberry pie that has an extra-flaky crust. A pastry chef must be imaginative in creating unique desserts, yet also offer sweets that will be popular with the establishment's customers and compliment the rest of the menu.

Patissiers usually have training from a pastry chef school that may offer two- to four-year programs. This training typically includes an understanding of different dessert courses, such as those that include wine and cheese. These chefs are also trained in pairing sweet desserts with alcohol, such as poached pears in champagne and chocolate with port. If a pastry chef decides to serve something that is usually simple, such as a cupcake, he or she may create a sophisticated version such as dark chocolate cakes with Merlot, or other dark French wine, in the frosting.

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Discussion Comments
By jonrss — On Feb 03, 2012

I took pastry chef courses when I was in culinary school but I found that they didn't provide a lot of useful training. Pastry chef jobs are much different than just baking at your own leisure.

The pressure of working in a fast paced kitchen with a lot going on is one of the hardest things to teach in culinary school. There are lots of people who can make amazing food but can't handle the pressure and the pace of the kitchen.

Pastry chefs have all the same pressures. Baking under pressure is an easy way to make a big mistake. And unlike cooking a steak over again it is not easy to fix.

By chivebasil — On Feb 03, 2012

I work as the executive pastry chef at a large hotel in Colorado. We make hundreds of different pastries every day for service at all three meals.

My job is mostly one of planning and management. We have a team of six pastry chefs that do most of the daily baking and preparation. My job is to supervise them and to do all the ordering. I am also in charge of menu planning and handling accommodations for any special events.

Sometimes I miss having my head over a bowl all day but I still do a fair amount of baking. We put out a lot of pastries and there are times when six chefs is not enough.

By anon179142 — On May 23, 2011

This is a very good article describing the characteristics of a good pastry chef. It tells that what it takes to be a pastry chef and what are the things that must be kept in mind. The youngsters who are interested in this can apply.

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