Is baking your passion? Bakers and pastry chefs create bread and other
treats for everyone to enjoy. Insiders say there's a lot of variety on the
menu if you're interested in a career in this field. As consumers become more
health-conscious and open to multicultural menus, bakers need to accommodate
new and different customers.
"Demand is increasing for artisan-style products, such as multigrain breads
and other products that require a craftsman's touch," says Paul Hetherington.
He is the CEO of a baking association.
Hetherington also says that the baking industry has a variety of openings.
"Opportunities exist not only on the entrepreneurial side. There is room for
individuals to move into food science and food safety positions."
So what's the difference between a baker and a pastry chef? "Bakers are
trained to make a variety of breads, while a pastry chef is a more specialized
baker trained in the production of sweet goods," says Hetherington.
Bakers and pastry chefs must mix ingredients according to recipes. They
also formulate new products. They have to get up early to make fresh goods
each day. You need good hand-eye coordination and artistic ability to decorate
and invent baked goods.
One of the largest sources of employment for bakers and pastry chefs is
the restaurant industry. The restaurant industry as a whole employs 13.1 million
people in the United States, says the 2008 Restaurant Industry Forecast. That
makes it the nation's largest private sector employer.
Bakers can work in places ranging from family restaurants to five-star
resorts. Opportunities also exist to move into management positions.
Employment opportunities will be significant across North America as the
shortage of both skilled and unskilled workers grows. "Even more severe shortages,
specifically of trained workers, will be evident in the next five to 10 years,"
Robotics and computerized production have opened up a new and more technical
area of baking. Hetherington adds that an element of computer science has
recently appeared in the baking industry.
"The number one qualification [for a career in baking] would be experience
in as many positions as possible within a bakery," says Colleen Scroggin.
She works with the American Institute of Baking (AIB).
In its video Always on the Rise, the AIB says that Americans spend over
$3 billion every year on baked goods in supermarkets.
The video also says that the baking industry often grows in bad economic
times. That's because people will spend more on baked foods that they know
are healthy. So, a baker's income is less affected by changes in the economy.
Approximately 166,000 bakers are employed in the United States, says the
most recent edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). It adds that
overall employment for bakers is expected to remain stable through 2014, with
speciality bakers experiencing the most demand for their work.
Bakers can work in bakeries, cake shops, hot bread shops, hotels, cafeterias
and factories. Supermarkets and cruise shops also offer opportunities.
Most baking jobs require physical labor. Bakers have to stand for long
periods of time. They also need to operate industrial machinery. They must
deal with noise, heat and dust from flour.
Training will be just as important as a desire to create treats and other
baked goods. More complicated menus and the use of computers in kitchens also
make it necessary to get the right training.
The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) offers an associate's and bachelor's
degree in baking and pastry arts.
Wendy Higgins works with the institute's career services. "Our students
get experience in baking and making pastries, resulting in a well-rounded
idea of all areas of baking and pastry arts," she says.
Higgins says it is extremely important to attend a school with a good reputation.
A good school has better facilities, instructors and industry exposure through
"We are doubling our program intakes from eight to 16 times per year. We
admit 18 students at each intake, so there is obviously a demand," she says.
The CIA associate's degree is a 21-month program offering hands-on class
work and an 18-week work placement. The more intensive 38-month bachelor's
degree also includes an 18-week work placement.
Baking students learn to make a variety of breads and other items like
cookies and biscotti. Patisserie students are trained to work with chocolate,
sugar and other ingredients to create desserts, cakes and pastries.
Apprenticeship is also an essential part of a career in baking. Being an
apprentice means that you learn a trade by working for an agreed period under
an experienced tradesperson. Apprentices usually earn lower wages than more
Michelle Quilici works with Hospitality Careers Online. She says that experience,
a good reputation and enthusiasm are vital ingredients to a successful career
as a baker.
"Associate yourself with solid brand names and reputable companies. Plan
to start out entry level and grow within a company because experience is key,"
2008 Restaurant Industry FactsAn in-depth analysis of the restaurant industry in the U.S.
Bakery OnlineA resource Web site for baking professionals
Culinary Institute of AmericaInformation for potential students on locations, program details
and the history of the institute
Pastry Chef CentralInformation including recipes, links and a postings archive
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