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How do you balance your work life and personal life as a pastry chef?


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Bill’s Answer

Balancing your life in our industry is not an easy task. It takes thought, effort, delegation and trust.
If you are just starting out in the industry, and trying to find a balance, it will be more difficult. You will want to take advantage of every opportunity to learn your craft. This usually means putting in long hours.
You will need to be flexible with your days off. Yes you will be working weekends, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. You can still celebrate them. It just may not be on the actual day. Your day off might fall on a Monday or Tuesday.
Many times you will find that your co-workers become your extended family. Many days/weeks you will see more of them than you will you real family at home. As you grow and take on more responsibilities it can become even more difficult to balance unless you train your staff and trust them.
I believe that careers in the Kitchen/Heart of the House are inherently not life balanced. A person enters our profession with a passion for food and hopefully people as well. As with many crafts, the passion can be consuming. That is not to say you can't have any balance but as I said earlier it takes effort. It also helps to have a very understanding spouse/family.
Best of luck on your journey.

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Dada’s Answer

Truth be said - Passion sometimes is used as a mask for some unhealthy lifestyle esp being in a hospitality & Food industry that may physically, emotionally and mentally strain you as an individual . It is also a fact that your shift as a chef is 10 Hours straight minimum.
However this very information should not mislead you balancing your personal life and Professional life.
Make a list that you enjoy the most thats not to do with kitchen . Get indluged in some pleasant good ol`novel reading , Participate in sports activties , Spend time with your loved ones-make the most of it. Plan your week off for that blissful getaway weekend . Nothing more - Nothing less Rachel :)

Cheers

Thank you for the advice! Rachel C.

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Bill’s Answer

Balancing your life in our industry is not an easy task. It takes thought, effort, delegation and trust.
If you are just starting out in the industry, and trying to find a balance, it will be more difficult. You will want to take advantage of every opportunity to learn your craft. This usually means putting in long hours.
You will need to be flexible with your days off. Yes you will be working weekends, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. You can still celebrate them. It just may not be on the actual day. Your day off might fall on a Monday or Tuesday.
Many times you will find that your co-workers become your extended family. Many days/weeks you will see more of them than you will you real family at home. As you grow and take on more responsibilities it can become even more difficult to balance unless you train your staff and trust them.
I believe that careers in the Kitchen/Heart of the House are inherently not life balanced. A person enters our profession with a passion for food and hopefully people as well. As with many crafts, the passion can be consuming. That is not to say you can't have any balance but as I said earlier it takes effort. It also helps to have a very understanding spouse/family.
Best of luck on your journey.

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Nicole’s Answer

So when you choose this field you should be ready to give it all up cause it keeps getting tougher n tougher.
you'll hav alot of sleepless nights
tiredness due to shift changes
but I'll like to giv u a small advice if you choose this field choose it because you love doin it n not for the money n fam if your dedicated n focused it will for sure pay u back
slowly slowly u do get used to it
there will be times where you'll be missing family gathering and function n festivals but its all a part of been in a hm industry
its very glamorous on d outside but the inside is full of challenges
And believe me if u truely love workin as a chef you'll be surprised at how good you are at it and how much u enjoy working

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Mark’s Answer

New parent and exec chef here. Our restaurant is too small to need a pastry chef (most are) but I have worked with enough of them to give you some insights. Coincidentally, none are currently employed as pastry chefs. One is a bartender at a very nice cocktail bar, one is a pasta chef making noodles so she is kinda doing pastry, and the other is teaching people how to skydive. So, if you'd rather jump out of a plane than make another cake, there ya go.

Time management is a hot button item in the industry right now. There are chefs trying to put the breaks on, take a step back and really assess if working 60-70 he work weeks is a flaw or a feature of our esteemed position. Most are coming away with the view that it is flawed and we have to do something to train, delegate, and time out up better boundaries so we can have both. Sure, people are going to tell you it's part of the job and normal, but, it shouldn't mean that you can't strive to find a better way of doing things. Overall, even if you do find a middle ground, it is very very hard to achieve any sort of work life balance, especially if you have kids. Pastry can be a different beast and there are routes you can go that aren't strictly tied to restaurant work.

Let's discuss restaurant kitchens first. Pastry differs from the rest of the kitchen in terms of work load, side work, people, equipment, so that's a plus. It gets really nice especially if the restaurant has a separate pastry kitchen (which is air conditioned and not as uncomfortable to work in as the main kitchen). The people that work in pastry are generally more focused and more similar to you and your interests than general line cooks. However, the more specialized your job, it becomes (1) harder to take time off because there is no one around to cover you but (2) can sometimes be easier to set boundaries because you are harder to replace and ownership needs to have an appreciation of that. It's a catch 22.

Unlike being on the main line cooking, you'll generally have 95% of your work done before service so all you do during service is wait for checks and begin plating. Like the exec chef, the pastry chef doesn't always need to stay around till the end of service so they are usually gone after the main dinner hit. That said, they are usually one of the first in the building and have a fairly grueling workload, especially if they are prepping for private dinners or catering events on top of regular service.

Getting to the point of being a pastry chef, running a pastry department, and really going hard is going to require some time as a sous chef on the main line in an upscale kitchen. Since pastry kitchens generally on exist in fine dining, you'll need to spend a bit of time there. Cooking is a small part of a chefs job, it should be the most reflexive, instinctive part and the only way to get there is experience. To do the rest, you need to know how to order from vendors, write schedules, manage cooks, manage money, troubleshoot dishes on the fly, and work the rest of the kitchen. People don't get jobs as pastry chefs without first proving they can run a kitchen of some kind first.

Now, the other paths you can go down are a little more forgiving but will still require a huge workload. A lot of bakeries hire people with pastry backgrounds, especially if they do a lot of weddings and events. This connects to the other outlet available which is strictly events. Working at a bakery will have better hours and a more set schedule. You should have a more set balance there than in a kitchen, but the pay is usually less. Event catering is dependent on the pace/scale of events. It is not for everyone as there are tons of moving parts and other people you have to depend on but it pays more. Get in with the business owner/chef at one of these places and become dependable enough to learn the ropes of running it and you should be good to go.

Good luck out there!


Thanks for the answer! Rachel C.

Forgot to mention, work life balance for any job first starts with management, whether that is you or ownership, makes it a priority. If you or your boss do not prioritize it, it won't happen. Period. Mark Hutson

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Camellia’s Answer

Hi Rachel - I have no knowledge about being a pastry chef, but like you I have thought about entering the culinary world myself. I think the following article might interest you:

https://www.reddit.com/r/food/comments/2rjgbz/i_staged_at_a_2_michelin_star_restaurant_with/

Thanks for the info! Rachel C.

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