How to Become a Pastry Chef in France
If you have a passion for baking, you may be considering becoming a pastry chef, but as anyone will warn you, embarking into the restaurant industry is not for the faint of heart. You work long hours in an intense and heated environment - literally and figuratively - often for low pay. If you're truly passionate about your craft, however, pursuing the art of pastry can be delicious and rewarding.
Becoming a chef holds particular challenges since the requirements for doing so are so strict. The sheer quality of French pastries already sets the bar for precision and artistry high, so in order to own your own patisserie, you must undergo years of schooling and on-the-job training.
Going to Pastry School
The first major step in becoming a pastry chef is deciding to go to culinary school. At a culinary institute, you'll learn everything from basics like tools and equipment to more complex substitutions, and most quality programs will offer substantial on-the-job training.
With so many different types of programs and institutes, the hardest part of getting into pastry school is deciding where to apply, so keep these things in mind when determining where to go.
- Choose a Full Degree Program
While some institutions offer certificates that only require a handful of classes, those programs are generally geared toward either home cooks or established professionals. A two- or four-year degree program is, therefore, best if you want to go from zero to pro, and if you can't decide between the two, keep in mind that you can always transfer credits from your Associate's to earn your Bachelor's degree later.
- Take a Class to Test the Waters
If you're stuck between a couple of institutions, taking basic baking classes at each one can help you gauge which one will suit you best. An intro class will not only teach you fun tricks like preparing brie, but it will also give you a feel for the instruction style of the institute in question.
- Keep Practicalities in Mind
Simply put, make sure that you're committed and that you have a plan to finance and attend the school of your choice. While your education should be a worthwhile investment, you shouldn't plunge yourself into a load of debt.
Working in France
The French take their food seriously, which is why the country is known globally for its cuisine. Chefs, therefore, must undergo years of on-the-job training even after completing a degree, and many don't reach the top until well into their careers. The French pastry scene is also incredibly competitive, so most patisseries are looking for the best of the best. Therefore, anyone looking to pursue baking in France should consider these tips when making important education- and career-related decisions.
- Attend a French Institution
One way to bring your culinary career to France is by starting there in the first place. In a French pastry program, you'll learn the ins and outs of traditional French food and pick up a bit of language, which will help you land an apprenticeship when the time comes.
- Network, Network, Network
Even if you get your education back home, one of your colleagues or professors will likely know someone in the French baking industry, and some institutions may even host events specifically geared toward students interested in working abroad. You should, therefore, take the time to network with as many people as possible to get your foot in the door in another country.
- Study or Travel Abroad
If your goal is to eventually move abroad to Paris, you should choose an institution that offers study abroad programs for their students. A study abroad program is a great way to constructively learn about another culture - and if you do so as part of a culinary arts program, it's great for networking, too. If you can't study abroad, then traveling to this country is an equally great option. While you're there, be sure to take a class or two to get to know the ins and outs of French patisserie.
How Do I Know if it's Right for Me?
Becoming a chef in France is no easy task, but if you have the skills and dedication, you can excel in your field. However, many people burn out on culinary careers due to the early mornings, long hours, and hard work involved. How can you know if you have what it takes? These tips will help you decide whether to become a professional patissier.
- Take Cooking Classes
Spending a day or two taking classes on breads, cookies, or even macarons can be a great way to help you gauge whether you enjoy baking in a structured environment. If you're not a huge fan, then you might reconsider whether you'll enjoy working in a professional kitchen.
- Take a Side Gig in the Industry
Even if you're already working, getting a side job at a restaurant can be a good way to get an inside look at your potential career. Even if you're just a host or busser, you'll learn the daily grind and meet industry professionals who can give you valuable insight into your dream job.
- Talk to a Current Chef
One of the best ways to get to know the reality of any job is to interview someone currently in that position. If you ask kitchen professionals for an honest take on their positions, you'll get a clearer picture of what it really takes to make it as in the world of pastry.
- Be Honest With Yourself
How much do you love baking, and how much are you willing to work for it? Are you a morning person, and are you OK with working long nights and on weekends? Asking yourself these types of questions and answering honestly is essential to deciding whether or not to pursue the culinary arts. If you're hesitant about getting up early or being on your feet all the time, then you may want to take a few hobby classes before diving straight in.
For more information, please refer to the following pages: