Confessions of a Girly-girl: Working in Pastry

A lot of friends have asked about what working in pastry is really like, so I decided to share a few of my impressions here.  If you know me, you’re already aware that I’m a huge fan of all things girly… besides that one dark year in high school when I wore a lot of sweat pants, I gravitate towards all things bow-laden and pink.  Here are some ways that my lifestyle has changed since pursuing pastry professionally.  If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in the pastry arts, be sure to consider these things before making the transition!

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Say goodbye to being fashionable.  I used to associate pastry with all-things feminine and artsy – you know, Anthropologie-style aprons and trendy baby pink Kitchenaid mixers.  Even in my own blog shots you’ll often see me floating around the kitchen in flowing dresses with my hair down.  This is fine when I’m baking in my own kitchen for myself or friends, but no matter how dreamy the picture may be, this would never be allowed in an actual bakery.

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Expect to wear long pants in the heat of summer, plain T-shirts, and baseball hats that cover all of your hair (NOT what I’m doing in this picture!).  Food workers are required to cover their heads at all times, so it’s your choice… use that White Sox hat that used to belong to your dad, or a hair net!  Unfortunately, you won’t be wearing a fancy French chef hat anytime soon.  You’ll be expected to wear non-slip shoes; I purchased the most dreadful shoes of my life in order to go to pastry school.  While they probably saved me a few nose-dives in the kitchen, I still can’t seem to grow accustomed to their unsightliness.

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No nail polish is allowed!  Especially when pedicures are twice the price of a manicure, this fact had me distraught for a while.  But think about it, you’ll be trading in those French tips for French bread!

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Don’t expect to get paid right away if you want to work at a specialty cake studio.  Every cake-specific shop I have looked into offers unpaid internships with no guarantee of employment.  Many of these internships, while offering valuable exposure and insight into cake assembly, won’t have you working on the cake decorating but rather the cake baking process.  You will be able to get creative… just not yet.

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Even if you’re lucky enough to work in a bakery where you don’t have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to start your shift, you’ll still be expected to spend long hours on your feet.  Working at a bakery is physically taxing.  You will discover that you have to have superhuman strength.  You will need to lift heavy equipment and reach heavy ingredients from top shelves, all while being covered in buttery residue.  I’ve made around 300 pounds of cookie dough in one day, and the burn afterwards kind of feels like you just finished running a 5K race.

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With all of this said, I still adore pastry and think that it’s worth pursuing professionally despite the lifestyle changes you will have to make.  I don’t think my sweet tooth will ever suffer from burn-out.  In fact, I’ve needed more sugar energy than ever to complete my baking tasks!  I love that I’m surrounded by sugar and people who love sugar all day.  If you’re a pastry fangirl, go for it!

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