Pastry Chef

Zoe Mak

A pastry chef needs to be creative and patient as it takes years to refine skills and tastes

Zoe Mak |

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Requirement: A pastry chef needs to be open-minded, patient and creative. You also need to be interested in arts and read magazines regularly to get inspiration to create and new desserts.

Qualifications: You can obtain basic pastry training from the Vocational Training Centre before applying for a job. But the more schooling you have, the easier it will be to climb the career ladder, especially at five-star hotels.

Average pay: Expect to earn around HK$7,000 as an apprentice, depending on the hotel or pastry chain. Top chefs can command very big salaries.

Work prospects: Lau Chin-pang , pastry chef of the Intercontinental Hotel, has been with the hotel since 1980. He joined after three years at the Vocational Training Centre, where he learned about working in the kitchen and making pastries.

The pastry department is responsible for making all desserts, bread and pastries for all the coffee shops and restaurants at the hotel. The team is also responsible for catering all banquets at the hotel.

Lau says it is important to start as an apprentice to learn the basics, and work on simple tasks like making fruit decorations.

You should then spend a year or two training as a junior cook, taking up more skilled tasks such as making the base of the cake.

After a few years, you will be promoted to senior cook, and would will be responsible for making the actual cake.

The next step up is section head, a role which involves managing and leading the team in pastry, bread or dessert production.

Before heading the pastry kitchen as pastry chef, the section head graduates to sous chef. A sous chef is the pastry chef's deputy and helps lead and manage the pastry kitchen.

It takes about 20 years of solid experience and knowledge to become pastry chef. By then, you should be capable of managing the pastry team, sourcing fresh and seasonal ingredients for desserts and pastries, and designing new recipes for the dessert menu.

Long-term work prospects: Lau heads a team of 19 chefs, including four bakers who create and prepare more than 2,000 desserts every day for the hotel's restaurants and banquets. He says experienced pastry chefs can work their way up to lead the team at a hotel, bakery or pastry chain.

Where to apply: Major bakery or pastry chains and hotels.

A day at work

Lau and his team have to prepare more than 2,000 desserts every day, including a selection of 50 dessert items for the lunch and dinner buffet. They sometimes also need to make desserts for evening banquets.

Lau starts early in the morning and stays behind when there are weddings or banquets at night.

His pastry staff work shifts - some start at 7am, while others begin around 3pm. They work about 10 hours a day. He says pastry chefs have a much busier schedule than regular chefs who get breaks between lunch and dinner time. The pastry kitchen is busy all day long.

He advises those interested in pastry-making to try making different kinds of desserts and keep up with pastry development trends.