Whether you’re pursuing a long-time passion or switching from another career, the path to sweet success as a pastry chef is full of creativity and opportunity. And while there isn’t just one way to work your way up to a goal, whether that’s the role of executive pastry chef—heading up the pastry department in a restaurant—or owning a bakery in your hometown, there are essential steps to take and skills to master so you’re ready to take command of the kitchen.
Learn Essential Baking and Pastry Techniques
Working as a pastry chef requires astute attention to detail and precision in high-pressure and fast-paced environments, so mastery of basic pastry techniques is important to a chef’s success. Becoming a respected and versatile pâtissier requires a thorough knowledge of ingredients, tools, baking chemistry and techniques—which is why many aspiring pastry chefs begin gathering experience and practicing their skills through intensive baking and pastry classes, provided in courses like those included in ICC’s Professional Pastry Arts program.
Having the ability to demonstrate a well-rounded set of skills will help those trying to stand out rise through the ranks. At ICC, in particular, students are immersed in a curriculum of carefully constructed baking and pastry classes—beginning with kitchen fundamentals and progressing into more advanced, creative skills like designing chocolate sculptures, wedding cakes and even full dessert menus.
Beyond the baking techniques, ICC’s pastry programs also teach students critical skills in time management, problem solving, teamwork and endurance—all skills that restaurant owners, executive chefs and other culinary employers expect in all of their staff.
Our baking and pastry program, created by renowned master chef and ICC Dean of Pastry Arts Jacques Torres, is designed to build a knowledge base for widespread application in a professional pastry kitchen in as little as six months—an education that can take years to gain in a traditional apprenticeship. Students also have the ability to complete internships outside the classroom in high-caliber pastry kitchens; past internship places include Dominique Ansel Bakery, Ron Ben-Israel Cakes and even the world-famous chocolate business of Jacques Torres himself through an exclusive arrangement with the ICC.
Gain Real-World Pastry Experience
After building a breadth of baking techniques, whether through pastry school or by accruing experience elsewhere, many aspiring pastry chefs work their way up by getting a foot in the door as pastry cooks. Working as a pastry cook under an executive pastry chef in larger kitchens, aspiring chefs have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the pasty department from the service side before moving into larger roles in production, like pastry sous chef as the direct support to the executive pastry chef. In smaller kitchens, pastry cooks may share everyday jobs of both service and production roles.
Several alumni of the Professional Pastry Arts program have used their ICC education and experience to work their way up in the pastry department. Mame Sow, a 2007 ICC pastry alumna, for example—now Executive Pastry Chef at Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Napa Valley, California—began her career as an intern, later worked as a pastry sous chef on Marcus Samuelsson’s team, and most recently held the title Executive Pastry Chef at Cecil and Minton’s in Harlem.
When asked by Total Food Service how she became an executive pastry chef before the age of 30, Sow said she was “lucky to get great early training and great early experience in the kitchen,” and attributed much of that training to her ICC education.
Other alumni of ICC’s pastry program who have also made a quick impact in the industry include Susanna Yoon, chef-owner of Stick with Me Sweets, and Melissa Weller, partner and baker at Sadelle’s in New York City’s SoHo. Yoon was recently placed on the list of Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professionals, while Weller has received widespread recognition for her bagel innovation including mentions in The New York Times and Huffington Post.
“I was lucky to get great early training and great early experience in the kitchen.” – Mame Sow, 2007 ICC Pastry Alumna in an interview with Total Food Service
Starting Your Pastry Career with an ICC Education
If starting down the path toward becoming a pastry chef is the next step in your culinary career, then find out more about ICC’s Professional Pastry Arts program in New York and California. If you have more questions about baking and pastry programs at ICC, you can also contact an admissions representative.
If you know a teen looking to get a head start on learning baking techniques and learn more about the possibility of becoming a pastry chef, ICC also offers summer pastry camps for teens 13-18 in New York and California.