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A pastry chef, or patissier, is the Willy Wonka of professional kitchens — he/she creates delicious cakes, pastries, pies, cookies, breads etc.

education Updated: Nov 03, 2011 16:36 IST

The lowdown
A pastry chef, or patissier, is the Willy Wonka of professional kitchens — he/she creates delicious cakes, pastries, pies, cookies, breads etc. In a hotel or restaurant kitchen, they occupy the pastry substation and are responsible for creating products that are as pleasing aesthetically as they are to taste. Though the job requires long hours on the feet, a pastry chef gets to employ his creativity to the fullest and come up with tantalising creations, making it a satisfying profession.

You have to be creative and think out of the box

Clock Work
7am to 10am: Reach the kitchen
6.30-10am: Breakfast buffet. Check breads and desserts for freshness
10am to 3pm: Check for and prepare orders for the day
3pm: Lunch
3.30pm to 9pm: Work on the dinner buffet and individual orders. Also prepare menu for the pastry shop
9pm: End work. Do some creating planning for the next day

The payoff
(In a five-star hotel or high-end restaurant or stand-alone bakery) Start as a junior chef: Rs15,000
Salary grows with experience and position. A pastry chef can go on to earn lakhs and even become an entreprenuer or start his/her own bakery.

Skills/TRAITS
*
Creativity — It’s a field for those with an artistic bent of mind
* Attention to detail
* Customer service: some pastry chefs may supply other businesses with baked goods, while others may serve their confections at their own neighbourhood shops. No matter
who their customers are, pastry chefs need people skills in order to establish thriving businesses
* Ability to handle long hours with patience: It’s a satisfying but physically demanding profession requiring long hours on the feet. For most, the day begins pre-dawn. Cooking
and baking can be a long-drawn process so one has to remain patient and cheerful at the end of it all.
* Punctuality: At a hotel/restaurant, chefs have to plate and deliver a pre-prepared product to the table within a few minutes of an order coming in. If you prepare goods on
order, you have to ensure the cake reaches the customer fresh, cooled down, and at the allotted hour

Getting there
As it is a specialised field, a degree/certificate course in baking after Class 12 is ideal. However, many chefs believe hands-on training works just as well. You can get on-the-job experience while doing an apprenticeship programme or learn the ropes after doing a degree in hotel management. The latter gives you a holistic view of all departments in a kitchen and is required if you wish to be promoted to the position of executive chef

Institutes and URLs
* Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition, www.ihmpusa.net
* STEP programme at The Oberoi hotels, www.oberoihotels.com/careers
* National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology, nchmct.org
* Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, www.bcihmct.ac.in
* Culinary Institute of America www.cia-culinary.com
* The French Culinary Institute, New York
www.frenchculinary.com

Pros and cons
* Creatively satisfying
* Scope for endless experimentation and innovation
* Your workplace always smells heavenly
* Need to start very early in the morning
* The job can get mentally and physically exhausting
* Good salaries and job perks
* Opportunity of being exposed to global cuisines
* Your creations can make or mar a culinary experience

If you have a good palate, an eye for detail and are willing to work for hours at a stretch, then a career as a pastry chef is right for you
Kishi Arora, pastry chef/food consultant based in New Delhi