In an uncompromising metropolitan job market, talented pastry chefs or bakers can be difficult positions not only to fill, but to retain. Career pastry chefs are few and far between because of their specialized knowledge and dedication to the work. With the added pressure of working unconventional hours, turnover rates for this position are high and as a result, many pastry departments suffer from inconsistency. Being kind and attentive to those in the pastry department will result in a strong and consistent staff and product.
While many successful career pastry chefs and bakers do learn on the job, there is a steep learning curve that requires quite a bit of training. Home bakers looking for an hourly job may be easily overwhelmed by the workload of a baker in the food service industry. For this reason it is important to always consider a baker or pastry chef’s work history and training before they are interviewed. Before the individual is hired, it is doubly important to test their skills by inviting them to work with your current pastry chef. This sort of audition-style second interview is called a stage (pronounced with a French accent, this word rhymes with lodge.)
Once you have hired an individual who is well suited for this position it is important to be sympathetic to its demands:
Working alone or with very little assistance is common, sometimes this can put a good deal of addition pressure on the individual when compared to their culinary counterparts.
- While all positions in the foodservice industry are strenuous, the work of the of pastry chef requires a good deal of heavy lifting (i.e. 50 pound bags of flour and sugar, large mixing bowls or cambros filled with batter, etc.) without much supervision.
- They often work early hours to accommodate yeasted items and must complete the bulk of their work before the evening staff arrives, causing them to skip breaks and suffer from physical and mental burnout.
Considering these demands, here are some tips regarding how to hold on to good workers:
- Consider hiring a pastry manager or kitchen manager in addition to your head pastry chef to take care of clerical work like ordering, receiving, and scheduling.
- Give special consideration to the location of your dry goods storage, floor mixers, and cold storage, assuring it is easy for the pastry team to access.
- Ask others working in your restaurant to give the pastry team a hand by refilling used product before closing for the night, this way they are at lower risk for injury when unsupervised.
- Be sure your pastry chefs take breaks, eat meals, and get enough rest.
- As always, pay is competitive within this field. Offering above average compensation and benefits is one of the best ways to attract and retain good employees.