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Bakers and Pastry Chefs Have Recipe for Success

Is baking your passion? Bakers and pastry chefs create bread and other treats for everyone to enjoy. Insiders say there's a lot of variety on the menu if you're interested in a career in this field. As consumers become more health-conscious and open to multicultural menus, bakers need to accommodate new and different customers.

"Demand is increasing for artisan-style products, such as multigrain breads and other products that require a craftsman's touch," says Paul Hetherington. He is the CEO of a baking association.

Hetherington also says that the baking industry has a variety of openings. "Opportunities exist not only on the entrepreneurial side. There is room for individuals to move into food science and food safety positions."

So what's the difference between a baker and a pastry chef? "Bakers are trained to make a variety of breads, while a pastry chef is a more specialized baker trained in the production of sweet goods," says Hetherington.

Bakers and pastry chefs must mix ingredients according to recipes. They also formulate new products. They have to get up early to make fresh goods each day. You need good hand-eye coordination and artistic ability to decorate and invent baked goods.

Bakers can work in places ranging from family restaurants to five-star resorts. Opportunities also exist to move into management positions.

Employment opportunities will be significant across North America as the shortage of both skilled and unskilled workers grows. "Even more severe shortages, specifically of trained workers, will be evident in the next five to 10 years," says Hetherington.

Robotics and computerized production have opened up a new and more technical area of baking. Hetherington adds that an element of computer science has recently appeared in the baking industry.

"The number one qualification [for a career in baking] would be experience in as many positions as possible within a bakery," says Colleen Scroggin. She works with the American Institute of Baking (AIB).

In its video Always on the Rise, the AIB says that Americans spend over $3 billion every year on baked goods in supermarkets.

The video also says that the baking industry often grows in bad economic times. That's because people will spend more on baked foods that they know are healthy. So, a baker's income is less affected by changes in the economy.

Bakers can work in bakeries, cake shops, hot bread shops, hotels, cafeterias and factories. Supermarkets and cruise ships also offer opportunities.

Most baking jobs require physical labor. Bakers have to stand for long periods of time. They also need to operate industrial machinery. They must deal with noise, heat and dust from flour.

Training will be just as important as a desire to create treats and other baked goods. More complicated menus and the use of computers in kitchens also make it necessary to get the right training.

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) offers an associate's and bachelor's degree in baking and pastry arts.

Wendy Higgins works with the institute's career services. "Our students get experience in baking and making pastries, resulting in a well-rounded idea of all areas of baking and pastry arts," she says.

Higgins says it is extremely important to attend a school with a good reputation. A good school has better facilities, instructors and industry exposure through work experience.

"We are doubling our program intakes from eight to 16 times per year. We admit 18 students at each intake, so there is obviously a demand," she says.

The CIA associate's degree is a 21-month program offering hands-on class work and an 18-week work placement. The more intensive 38-month bachelor's degree also includes an 18-week work placement.

Baking students learn to make a variety of breads and other items like cookies and biscotti. Patisserie students are trained to work with chocolate, sugar and other ingredients to create desserts, cakes and pastries.

Apprenticeship is also an essential part of a career in baking. Being an apprentice means that you learn a trade by working for an agreed period under an experienced tradesperson. Apprentices usually earn lower wages than more experienced tradespeople.

Michelle Quilici works with Hospitality Careers Online. She says that experience, a good reputation and enthusiasm are vital ingredients to a successful career as a baker.

"Associate yourself with solid brand names and reputable companies. Plan to start out entry level and grow within a company because experience is key," says Quilici.


Career Descriptions
Learn the culinary differences between a baker and pastry chef

Culinary Institute of America
Information for potential students on locations, program details and the history of the institute

Pastry Chef Central
Information including recipes, links and a postings archive

Back to Career Cluster


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