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24
August
2005

Baker vs. Pastry Chef

Brownies, nice and simple“There goes the baker with his tray, like always. The same old bread and rolls to sell…”

When I hear the term “Baker” I often think of this lyric, from the musical Beauty and the Beast, and it reminds me of a simple shop in a small town. On the contrary, when I hear the term “Pastry Chef” I think of a fancy restaurant in a big city like New York. Even though the titles “Baker” and “Pastry Chef” are often used interchangeably, I have come to believe that they actually mean very different things. In general, pastry chefs have a reputation of being competitive and egotistical, while bakers are more welcoming and humble. I know that there are always exceptions, but the more I learn about the world of desserts, the more I wonder if these stereotypes are true.

Stories about pastry chefs usually revolve around how many hours they work in a hectic kitchen, how much they yell at their staff, and how fancy their latest creation was. They are always in some competition creating 3-feet high sugar sculptures and all the titles of the desserts on their menu are at least five words long (e.g. Poached Apple Tatin en Gelée, Crème Fraîche and Rose Ice Cream.)

When it comes to bakers, they tend to their shop and have one or two word names for everything (e.g. Brownies or French Bread.) Their focus is on improving the classics and they strive to impress customers with details, not showy pieces. Now I know that I’m over-simplifying things – many bakers have egos and many pastry chefs are nice – but I have yet to hear about a baker losing his temper because a cupcake wasn’t plated right.

For the last couple months I have been struggling with what to consider myself. For now, I call myself a student, but when the time comes to choose, I think my decision will be easy: I don’t think I’ll ever fit in as a pastry chef, but I believe I’ll feel right at home as a baker.



12 COMMENTS SO FAR...

xk says on August 24th, 2005 at 11:48 pm:

Please do share what’s in the picture accompanying this post, looks quite yummy.

Raquel says on August 25th, 2005 at 10:44 am:

How about Baker Chef?

Cheryl says on August 25th, 2005 at 6:28 pm:

I consider being a baker as someone who carries on the tradition of making comfort foods (desserts, breads, cookies…etc) in a simple way. while pastry chefs feel a need to make something more than it really is. Why that is, I don’t know…it could be the challenge. Like you said, “in general” these are only titles and I prefer being a baker.

LAURIE says on August 25th, 2005 at 8:03 pm:

A VERY INTERESTING OBSERVATION! FROM WHAT I KNOW ABOUT YOU I WOULD THINK OF YOU AS A COMFORTABLE COMBINATION OF BOTH!!! THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!!!

Kate B. says on August 26th, 2005 at 6:51 pm:

Please don’t yell so loud Laurie…this is a dessert blog – we like our sweets in peace and quiet :)

Kelli says on August 26th, 2005 at 8:06 pm:

I have to admit I saw this picture on a stock photo site and loved it, but don’t know what’s in it. I should try creating something similar.

I agree that bakers carry on the tradition of comfort food, and there’s something really special about that. I haven’t met a “baker” I didn’t like!

Thanks for keeping the peace and quiet Kate. Normally all caps is considered to be like yelling, but I know Laurie didn’t intend it like that. We’ll let it slide this time :)

LAURIE says on August 26th, 2005 at 9:00 pm:

No, I absolutely didn’t intend to “yell” – I always type in caps! Maybe it’s my own way of expressing myself…, although actually I just like to type in caps & read in caps as well! Will try to keep it down! However, not all people like their desserts in peace & quiet, but are allowed to become quite animated about the whole thing…

shuna fish lydon says on August 27th, 2005 at 2:13 am:

I think that this is an interesting point. It took me years and years of working for people before I was Placed into a Pastry Chef position by my chef at the time. It was then that I had to learn how to manage others, keep my department tight and financially in order, deal with purveyors and work very hard to continue my own education and not become stagnant.

I am a baker, a cook and a chef. I think that humility is important. (Like Humble not humiliated.) But I will say that I have come across some very tough bakers! Some of those bread people are fanatics like anyone else submerged in their field.

I have never treated any of my assistants or cooks as badly as I was treated coming up in this business. And I hope to be learning until I leave the planet.

Lori says on August 30th, 2005 at 10:19 pm:

I consider myself a baker — home baker. The things I bake are what I want to eat and I relish the freedom that comes with not having to worry about the bottom line. I’m not a competitive person, which may be why. Somehow, I’ve always associated pastry chefs with fancy desserts that almost always look better than they taste.

Helga says on September 1st, 2005 at 9:12 am:

I am hungarian and we have a sweet which looks similar. Its called “Honey”. The brown dough has honey as well the white whipped cream. It tastes incredible :-)

Ms J says on September 6th, 2005 at 12:42 am:

You have definitely made quite an interesting observation & by the looks of your viewers comments, a pretty accurate observation at that. I definitely do agree with alot of what you have said..I think I tend to look at things very similarly. Hopefully one day I will find myself feeling that I am somewhere comfortably in the middle of baker & pastry chef. Until then my business card reads – “Dessert Designer”. =)

Becky says on May 1st, 2006 at 10:52 am:

I have found over the years that pastry chefs want to impress and bakers want to feed.




24
August
2005

Baker vs. Pastry Chef

Brownies, nice and simple“There goes the baker with his tray, like always. The same old bread and rolls to sell…”

When I hear the term “Baker” I often think of this lyric from the musical Beauty and Beast, and it reminds me of a simple time in a small town. On the contrary, when I hear the term “Pasty Chef” I think of a big city like New York with big names like Francois Payard and Jacques Torres. Even though “Baker” and “Pastry Chef” are often used interchangeably, I have come to believe they actually mean very different things. In general, pastry chefs come across as competitive and egotistic, while a baker seems more welcoming and humble. I know there are always exceptions to the rule, but the more I learn about the world of desserts, the more I think the stereotypes are true.

When I hear stories about pastry chefs it usually revolves around how many hours they work in a hectic kitchen, how much they yell at their staff, and how fancy their latest creation was. They always seem to be in a competition creating 3 feet high sugar sculptures, and have at least five words in the title of every dessert offered on their menu (e.g. Poached Apple Tatin en Gelée, Crème Fraîche and Rose Ice Cream.) When it comes to bakers, they always seem to be minding their own business in a small little shop, and have one or two word names for everything (e.g. Brownies or French Bread.) Their focus seems to be on improving the classics and they strive to impress customers with details, not showy pieces. Now I’m sure I’m over simplifying things, and that bakers have their own ego issues and pastry chefs care about taste, but I do think you can guess a lot about someone by the title they choose to go by.

For the last couple months I have been struggling with what to call myself. For now I consider myself a student, but when the time comes to choose I think my decision will be easy. I don’t think I’ll ever cut it as a pastry chef, but I believe I’ll feel right at home as a baker.



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