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Posted in Pro-Tips | 15 comments

Baker and Pastry Chef – Is There a difference?

Baker and Pastry Chef – Is There a difference?

Someone asked me recently, “Technically, what is your job title? Do you classify yourself as a pastry chef or a baker?”

“Yes. I suppose technically I am both. I can make breads from scratch as well as various types of desserts.”

Most people are familiar with the terms ‘baker’ and ‘pastry chef’ and while I believe most people are pretty confident with what a baker does, probably less are familiar with the pastry chef. (And to confuse things even more, there is the title of ‘pastry cook’ but more on that later.)

It is easy to understand where the confusion comes from since many of the tasks, tools, ingredients and products they produce are the same. Not to mention the kitchen the pastry chef and the baker work in are often the same. No wonder the girl who asked me if I was a pastry chef or a baker was confused.

What are some of the differences in the pastry chef and baker roles?

The word โ€œchefโ€ basically means โ€œboss.โ€ Pastry chefs are responsible for supervising their team of assistants, often referred to as ‘pastry cooks’ and are tasked with basically running the dessert side of the kitchen. The pastry chef is responsible for inventory, developing the dessert menu and a few other things. Bakers, on the other hand, generally do not take on responsibilities not directly related to producing their baked goods.

A key difference between the pastry chef and the baker is what they produce and how they finish or decorate their product. In my role as baker, I work on a pretty tight production schedule producing large volumes of conventional baked goods like bread, muffins, cookies, pastries, and cake. The bulk of my time, however, is spent baking bread and cake. Bakers typically do not do much decorating of their products. That responsibility generally goes to the the pastry cook or pastry chef.

Baker and Pastry Chef christmas cookie icing

The baker will often make the cookies and hand them off to the pastry cook or pastry chef to decorate.

When I put on my pastry chef hat I will be producing baked goods but in smaller quantities and usually on a per-order basis. Think of it this way- The baker is the one who bakes all the cakes for all the customers who come into the bakery. It is the pastry chef who will decorate it for you when you order it. The pastry chef will likely spend more time decorating goods and ‘plating’ them, in other words, finishing them with sauces and garnishes for presentation than they do baking them.

Baker and Pastry Chef plating

The baker will make the cake and hand it off to the pastry cook or pastry chef to plate it with strawberry and whipped cream when the guest orders.

(Disclosure: No one at Wild Side Confections is associated with Sundance Grill at the time of this writing. We just like to eat there because it is delish!)

So although a pastry chef can be a baker, a baker is not a pastry chef in that a pastry chef is also an artist, a manager, and an administrator.

Working as a baker is typically more physically demanding than work as a pastry chef. Physical stamina is a big part of the job for a baker in order to handle the repetitive, labor-intensive nature of the job. As well, for some reason I can not figure out, although I think it ties back to tradition and how much the French like their baguette in the morning, many bakers begin their work day very early. Like 2am early. In my book there is no reason to be making cookies or cake or bread that early in the morning. Donuts? Ok, I get that but really the donut is just the American version of the baguette right? The Americans love to have their morning donut and coffee. Really though, that overnight and early morning stuff should be left to the fine folks at Winchell’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and the most awesome friends of this blog at Pinkbox Doughnuts.

The pastry chef must often juggle many responsibilities at once, including but not limited to resolving issues with customers, overseeing the tasks and production sheet points of the kitchen staff they supervise, ordering office and bakery supplies, and preparing budgets and schedules. A pastry chef will balance all of these tasks at the same time as they are managing to fulfill their chief responsibility, creating delicious desserts.

Perhaps now you can see why my friend was confused as to what I actually do at the bakery. After I explained it to her she asked, “Which side do you prefer more?”

I had to answer that I like both. This is not a cop out but really I enjoy the solitary of baking. There it is just me and the dough or the batter, whether it be for cookies or cake. Getting my mise en place together, mixing, kneading and baking. Good times. Working as a pastry cook is good too. Frost and finish some cakes. Decorate the cookies with icing. Dip some strawberries in chocolate. This is a lot of fun too. As well, my time in the Army helped develop my natural leadership skill so give me a good crew and some hungry people and I am happy I the role of pastry chef as well.

As long as I am in the kitchen proving smiles to the world, life is good.

Baker and Pastry Chef Troy Swezey in bakery

Chef Troy Swezey often plays the role of Baker and Pastry Chef, sometimes at the same time.

Does this clear it up for you? Let me know in the comments. Would love to hear your thoughts.

15 Comments

  1. I had a wonderful destination wedding last year in Nevada,the food there it’s so delicious.I couldn’t be enjoyed..

    • Right. There are so many amazing chefs here…although many of them just have their name on the menu and barely step foot in the place. Regardless, the different styles and quality of foods to be found in Las Vegas is amazing for sure.
      Troy recently posted…Chocolate Orbit CakeMy Profile

  2. I have to admit that I didn’t know there even was a difference between a baker chef and a pastry chef. I thought they were the same, OMG, I was wrong ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing with us!
    Jenny B. recently posted…8 Tips for Safe Pressure Cooker UseMy Profile

    • Thanks for visiting Jenny. There is often times some cross over. I did some seasonal work in a resort where the two departments where completely separate. Breads etc baked in one kitchen while almost all decoration done in a completely different room.
      Troy recently posted…#793 Crisp apple strudelMy Profile

    • Thank you Diane. Many folks do not know the difference so I am glad to try to clear it up for everyone like you who is kind enough to read the article.
      Be well Diane and hope to hear from you again sometime soon.
      Troy recently posted…Chocolate Chip and Walnut Cookies from Le Cordon BleuMy Profile

  3. Hi Troy.
    Wonderful blog.
    I just like the helpful information you provide to your articles.
    Really youโ€™ve mentioned here nice information about Baker and Pastry Chef difference.
    I would be very interested to hear more news on this.
    Good day.
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. great recipe,i will try to make this at home tonight.i hope this will be so testy to eat.I am actually delighted to read this blog posts which consists of lots of Useful Facts.thanks for sharing us.

  5. I see baker chef and a pastry chef are like specialists but both chefs. Like surgeons they can be surgeons but with specialty

  6. both chefs but one deals in savoury dough products the other in sweet dessert products. My brother is a great baker but not so hot when it comes to desserts lol.
    owen recently posted…Cornflake Fried ChickenMy Profile

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  8. Good breakdown on the difference between the two. As I am a supplier I talk to chefs on a regular basis and they like being the ‘boss’ LOL

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  10. What a fantastic post! The information is very useful. Thank you for sharing this here.

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