Pastry chefs are in great demand at first-class restaurants and bakeries. Pastry chefs supervise the production of baked goods, including breads and desserts, and are often noted for their creativity and passion in crafting the finest items in these categories.
Pastry chefs typically earn between $29,000 and $65,000 per year at most restaurants, although this amount is dependent on several factors. Smaller businesses will pay less, while five-star restaurants will pay more. However, the highest-paying jobs in the industry are in great demand and the hiring process is very competitive. Pastry chefs can also open their own businesses, such as bakeries, in which they can make as much money as the market allows in their locations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly income for a pastry chef in 2008 was $38,000. Half of all pastry chefs surveyed by the BLS made between $29,000 and $51,000 per year.
As with most jobs in the culinary arts, location is the biggest factor in determining salary.
A pastry chef in New York City might make $62,000 a year, while one in Fargo, North Dakota, might earn only $32,000. However, the cost of living in New York City is so much higher that the pastry chef in Fargo might actually be able to afford a better standard of living on the lower salary.
The type of job you get as a pastry chef will also determine your salary. For example, an assistant pastry chef in a large restaurant will often make less than a chief pastry chef in a smaller restaurant. However, some chief pastry chefs in very small restaurants may make little money and income may be dependent on the flow of business rather than a “set in stone” amount.
The advent of national interest in specialty cuisine, prompted by great media coverage and television food networks, has created new opportunities for pastry chefs, as well. Twenty years ago, it was unheard of to have a bakery that specialized only in cupcakes; now, however, there are several thriving businesses in major cities that do just this.
Pastry chefs who specialize in high-cost and high-demand deserts like wedding cakes may also have an easier time making a living than those who are outsourcing their talents to a very limited market.
Most upscale restaurants hire pastry chefs primarily for their flair and creativity in creating eye-catching breads and desserts that attract customers. Pastry chefs find high-paying jobs based, in some part, on the risks they are willing to take in creating new and exciting foods. Those with a high level of creativity are more likely to secure coveted and high-paying jobs in important restaurants.
However, that does not mean that a newly-graduated pastry chef should lose heart. While there are not too many high-paying jobs in some markets, there are outlets for creativity and work that can be utilized by someone with a high level of talent for pastry making. For example, many local civic organizations and arts centers offer public classes in cake decorating and dessert making.
A pastry chef can easily pick up part-time income by directing such classes, and these can also be a springboard to advertise a new business such as a cake shop or bakery. By diversifying your outlook on work, you may be able to use your talents as a pastry chef in many arenas.
Caterers are often on the lookout for good pastry chefs as they serve many weddings and parties. A larger firm of caterers may be able to keep a pastry chef employed full-time and offer better pay than many restaurants. For smaller catering firms, part-time work may be all that is available, but this can also be a great way of advertising your skills.
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