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Pastry Chef Salary & Career Outlook

Have you ever watched the Food Network challenges for wedding, birthday, and theme cakes and thought, "I could do that"? If you have a standing request to make "one of those incredible desserts" for every office and family potluck, a career as a pastry chef might be in your future.

Pastry Chef Ingredients

Pastry chefs, first and foremost, create, plate, and decorate pastries and desserts, but they also manage and train novice pastry chefs, plan menus, establish budgets and order supplies, and experiment with new recipes, ingredients, and techniques. Pastry chefs work in many different settings--casinos, restaurants, resorts, bakeries, food markets--and can also specialize (think cake decoration, artisan breads, chocolate or sugar creations, food writing or blogging, or catering).

Because pastry chefs often report directly to the executive chef, a pastry chef position is usually very prestigious. Candidates for pastry chef careers must be creative and very detail-oriented--one small mistake and a dessert or pastry could be ruined. They also need to understand the science of baking. Because they work with perishable ingredients, pastry chefs must know about hygiene and food safety. A pastry chef career is physically demanding--usually up well before the crack of dawn, pastry chefs are on their feet for long periods of time, and kneading bread and lifting heavy baking pans can require considerable stamina.

Does it Pay to Be a Pastry Chef?

The average pastry chef salary in 2009 varied widely depending on geographical location, what kind of establishment the chef works in, education, and experience. According to Salary.com, the 2010 median salary for a casino pastry chef was $47,271 with a salary range from $36,843 to $86,298. Hourly wages for industry sectors include:

  • Restaurants: $9.94 - $14.05
  • Bakeries: $10.18 -$14,37
  • Hotels: $9.98 - $13.86
  • Food Service: $9.81 - $13.81
  • Retail grocery: $10.22 - $14.58

According to PayScale.com, salary ranges for pastry chefs in major cities across the nation include:

  • NYC: $39,235 to $65,000
  • San Francisco: $30,837 to $54,045
  • Chicago: $32,000 to $43,916
  • Los Angeles: $39,305 to $55,955
  • Orlando: $32,492 to $51,612

Many pastry chefs migrate to large metropolitan culinary and restaurant meccas, such as New York City. Four of Dessert Magazine's 2010 top ten pastry chefs work in NYC restaurants. However, #1 pastry chef honors went to Christopher Boos, executive pastry chef for Dunkin Brands, Inc., the Massachusetts parent company for Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins.

Pastry Chef Career Outlook and Education

The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the job outlook for chefs to be good from 2008 through 2018, but fierce job competition means that education and training could make you more attractive to employers or help you advance into a management role. Pastry chef training online and on-campus is available at culinary and pastry chef schools, as well as community colleges and vocational schools. You can pursue a diploma or certificate or an associate's or bachelor's degree. Master's degrees are also available, but focus more on the science of baking and pastry. Educational programs cover both theory and practical application; many programs require students to apprentice or work as an intern in a student-run bakery or restaurant affiliated with the pastry chef school.