What High School Courses Are Needed to Become a Pastry Chef?

by James Rada, Jr.; Updated September 26, 2017

Pastry chefs are chefs who specialize in preparing desserts. They make more than pastries, though. Pastry chefs bake cookies, cakes and breads. Many pastry chefs specialize in culinary arts while in college. They can complete a certificate program or even earn an associate degree in culinary arts. Begin preparing for earning a degree in culinary arts while still in high school.

Vocational Schools

Many school systems have a career and vocational school that specializes in training students for various occupations that don’t typically rely as much on academics and a college degree as other programs do. These schools also have specialized classrooms for the training programs. If offered, a culinary arts program at these schools will give you hands-on experience in learning to make desserts. You’ll learn how to measure ingredients, use utensils and equipment, and apply baking methods.

Culinary Arts Classes

If a school system doesn’t have a vocational program in culinary arts, it may offer culinary arts or cooking classes. Through the course of a semester, you will learn proper kitchen safety, menu planning, portion control, cooking techniques, how to read recipes and more. You will also have labs where you will cook various dishes for a grade. This is also a good opportunity to get needed hands-on experience. Some schools will charge a fee for these classes to cover the cost of ingredients.

Useful Courses

College degree programs will require aspiring pastry chefs to take certain courses, many of which you can take in high school to prepare yourself for college-level work. Nutrition, accounting and inventory, business management are useful to a chef who may want to eventually manage other chefs. Biology, physiology and history are relevant in that they can teach proper hygiene techniques in a kitchen; how to handle perishable foods; the physiology of taste; and an understanding of the history of the ingredients used in recipes.

Work-Study

Another way to get valuable hands-on experience in learning to be a chef is to sign up for your high school’s work study program. You can take a paying job with a restaurant to learn more about cooking. This will be real-world experience that will give you an idea whether you like the work life of a chef and if you can handle the stress of working in a bustling work environment. Such work experience can also grow into positions with more responsibility as you learn more about the job.

About the Author

James Rada, Jr. was a newspaper reporter for eight years and earned 23 awards from the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association, Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Maryland State Teachers’ Association and CNHI. He also worked for 12 years as a marketing communications writer, earning a Print Copywriter of the Year Award from the Utah Ad Federation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.

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