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Pastry Chef

What does a Pastry Chef do?

A pastry chef specialises in the preparation of desserts, pastries and baked goods. A pastry chef may work in a variety of settings, such as restaurants, bakeries and hotels.

Their main duties include following recipes to create pastries, cookies and other baked goods, developing new and unique recipes to feature on the menu. In addition, the job requires admin work such as budgeting, purchasing of fresh fruits and other fresh goods or supervising other staff or chefs in the kitchen.


What qualifications do I need?

A good way to become a pastry chef is to first enroll for a one-year culinary arts programme at a reputable culinary school. The programme covers all of the basics that any pastry chef, or indeed any chef, would need in order to pursue a career in the culinary arts. Moving on from this programme, you may do an additional second year in the Patisserie Programme (which is just six months) and upon successful completion of this programme, you will receive a Diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking (Patisserie). 

What subjects do I need?

Physical Sciences
Hospitality Studies


Where can I study?

The International Hotel School
Diploma in Professional Cookery and Kitchen Management
Patisserie Programmes

Capsicum Culinary Studio
Professional Patisserie Programme

Prue Leith Culinary Institute
Occupational Certificate: Chef 
Professional Patisserie

Where can I get more info?

South African Chefs Association - www.sachefs.co.za
South African Bakers Association - www.sabakers.co.za
South African Chamber of Baking (SACB) - www.sacb.co.za


Interview with a Pastry Chef

Sisanda Sinesipho Nkonyeni | DEMI PASTRY CHEF | Belmond Mount Nelson

Sisanda Sinesipho Nkonyeni | DEMI PASTRY CHEF | Belmond Mount Nelson


Why did you choose to be a pastry chef?  
My love for food started when I was still in primary school. Whenever I got home I’d watch these cooking shows and sometimes recreate what I had seen on TV. Taking up cheffing as a profession was never part of the plan, until my final term in high school. I went ahead and studied professional cookery, and then worked in various kitchens, looking for who I wanted to be in the world of chefs. I found a sense of belonging, but that wasn’t enough. I moved on after my three years in hotel school, applying for a pastry position. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I feel at home when I’m in the pastry kitchen. It has taught me alot of patience. 

What training did you undergo, and where? 
I studied Hospitality Management: ND Professional Cookery at the Cape Town Hotel School, CPUT.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love it when things come together! It goes with being organised. Working with other people, working in a team. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how good a chef you are, you always learn something from the people you work with, be it at the junior or senior level. Most of us refuse to admit that you can always learn something through someone else’s work.

What don’t you like? 
I don’t like receiving complaints about work that I was involved in. Hence, it is important for me to do my best every day.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
I guess it would have to be taking things personally. Over the few years that I’ve been training and have been a chef, I’ve learnt that everyone I serve will have an opinion of their own. Taking criticism in a constructive manner wasn’t easy, but it has helped me; it is slowly shaping me into the person I want to become. 

What’s been the highlight of your career to date? 
Happy, content guests is a highlight of my every day!

In cheffing, is experience as important as formal training? 
Definitely, some things you can’t be taught in class, or in a culinary lab. You get to pick up a whole lot more in the kitchen. As a chef, you do more practical work, and may find that the theoretical part of it is not as important. For me, if you have both then your work becomes a little bit less difficult.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work, or certain traits one should have (or not have)?
Passion is key. You have to love what you do. As Vincent van Gogh once stated, “If it’s done in love, it’s done well.”

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?  
Always keep an open mind to others, and eventually find a style that illustrates your individuality. 

Describe your job in three words 
Sweet • Hard (work) • Fun


Interview date: May 2016