A pastry chef focuses her culinary skills toward the dessert world, developing original creations for a variety of establishments, including restaurants and hotels. The benefits available to a pastry chef, including paid vacation time, vary depending on the place of employment. The long hours associated with this position make vacation pay a rare find.
Restaurant Pastry Chef
A restaurant pastry chef typically works long hours, regularly putting in 12-hour days and more than 50 hours each week. This time is not just spent in the kitchen, but may include time spent in local markets purchasing ingredients for regular menu items as well as specialty offerings. A pastry chef working for a restaurant may have the advantage of a benefits package that includes health insurance and paid vacation time. The total vacation time a pastry chef receives varies by establishment but isn't usually very long. If the pastry chef goes on vacation, that means another chef has to pick up the slack. This could represent a dip in the restaurant's food quality for certain items, which can be bad for business in the long term.
Chef as Business Owner
A pastry chef running her own culinary business, such as a cafe or a bakery, arguably has less available free time than a pastry chef working as a restaurant employee. As a business owner, the chef is responsible for handling the day-to-day operations of her company while overseeing the creation of food, purchasing stock and planning new menu items. The vacation time available to a pastry chef in this circumstance is completely dictated by the success of the business. If a chef is making enough money to hire a manager and has the available kitchen staff to continue producing quality pastries, she could take an extended vacation whenever she wanted. Without the necessary staff, she isn't leaving anytime soon.
Private Pastry Chef
A private pastry chef works on call for a specific client who dictates the chef's working hours based on need. This may mean a pastry chef works long hours or relatively few depending on the nature of employment. As an independent contractor, a pastry chef is not entitled to any benefits, including paid vacation time. A private pastry chef wishing to take a vacation must do so using his own time and must pay for the vacation with his own funds.
Hotel Pastry Chefs
A large hotel needs a pastry chef to create original desserts for in-house restaurants and to supervise certain parts of the kitchen staff for providing room service to guests. The working hours for a pastry chef in a hotel are not largely different than in a restaurant, but a hotel usually has a better infrastructure to offer a pastry chef a competitive benefits package. A hotel chef position can easily afford a pastry chef up to two weeks of paid vacation per year with room to increase as the chef gains years of experience with the hotel.
2016 Salary Information for Chefs and Head Cooks
Chefs and head cooks earned a median annual salary of $43,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, chefs and head cooks earned a 25th percentile salary of $32,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $59,080, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 146,500 people were employed in the U.S. as chefs and head cooks.