Are Pastry Chefs an Endangered Species in Today's Culinary World?
Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, Squid Ink, the food blog of our sister paper LA Weekly, pondered the possible disappearance of the pastry chef in restaurant kitchens.
"Desserts often are seen as less important than the main courses," the article reads, "an optional portion of the menu that can easily be outsourced, with breads and individual desserts being brought in from an outside contractor."
Add other factors such as the financial crisis, precious kitchen space, and low pay, and you have to wonder whether pastry chefs are the culinary world's latest endangered species. I asked several Valley chefs if they thought the same, and this is what they had to say.
Definitely in this town. It's sad because I love desserts and have profound respect for those who pursue and execute the craft at a high level. I don't order dessert most of the time because there are just not that many exciting things happening right now in the Valley's dessert scene.
Yes, more companies are right-sizing their food and beverage operations and believe they can replace a pastry chef with bought products to save labor. If you do the analysis, you'll find it's more lucrative to have a pastry chef for the long haul. Prepared desserts have come a long way, but you can't replace a personality, passion, and a qualified teacher of sweets to assist the overall team's success, which will enhance internal growth for cooks who paid 50K for school.
The science and art of pastries is my true passion. Pastry chefs are endangered if they only know the "sweet" side of pastry. Knowledge of modern ingredients and techniques is a savior of their existence. Gums aren't just for blowing bubbles, and the capability of controlling the viscosity of liquid is a first-class ticket to the moon in my restaurant.
At Sassi, we're lucky to be busy enough to keep a full-time pastry chef. A pastry chef is a necessary part of the kitchen team at a resort or hotel, where the volume of baked goods is high. But I don't think the position is in the budget of many of the smaller independent restaurants -- owners often rely on a well-rounded executive chef to carry that weight.