Pastry chefs, also called pastry bakers, develop, prepare and cook cakes, breads, cookies, pies and other baked desserts. These professionals find employment with bakeries, restaurants, retail stores, banquet halls and food distributors. While some employers do not require individuals to possess formal education to work as pastry chefs, many require pastry chefs to have relevant training, certification and college education.
You can begin acquiring pastry chef and food development skills by enrolling in cooking, baking and home economics classes at a community college, community center, adult education outlet or craft store, says Education Portal, a personal learning website. Taking these entry-level, noncredit classes allows you to get background information on the career and build cooking strengths and skills before investing time and money in a college degree or professional training program. Additionally, completing a certificate or diploma program qualifies you for some entry-level pastry chef jobs.
Getting a two-year college degree in culinary arts or a closely related field from an accredited college allows you to learn new pastry baking techniques, teaches you the theory behind baking and gives you practice in baking pies, cakes and other dessert dishes. Additionally, completing an associate's degree program gives you a deeper understanding of the baking business and teaches you the principles of restaurant management, food sanitation procedures and marketing methods.
The baking industry typically requires new chefs to work for a few years as apprentices, or assistants, under experienced pastry bakers. Completing an apprenticeship allows you to put your classroom education into practice and gain more baking experience before striking out on your own. You can find pastry chef apprenticeship positions on your own at local restaurants, kitchens and bakeries, or you can sign up with the American Culinary Federation, which will place you in an apprenticeship position.
If you are interested in starting a restaurant or pastry baking business, or desire to advance into executive or management positions in the baking industry, you should pursue a bachelor's degree in culinary arts, culinary management or a related field. You can complete such a degree at a traditional university, a specialized cooking academy or an online four-year college.