I’ve been a pastry chef for about 12 years now. As with most careers, there are plenty of highs and lows. When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I’m a pastry chef, their eyes light up and out comes the smile. “Ohhh! YOU’RE A PASTRY CHEF!?! WOWWWW!” Every. Single. Time. I can comically predict people’s reactions as well as their follow up questions. Sometimes I am the topic of the party! People can be fascinated with desserts and pastries, and as a result, they are fascinated by the people that make them.
I suppose it’s like that because not very many people get to meet pastry chefs, right? When’s the last time you met a pastry chef? If you’ve met one recently, when’s the last time you met one before that? Not very often right? Probably because we’re busy making pastries!
I’ve always said being a pastry chef is not all cupcakes and unicorns, it’s hard work! People see the cakes, pies, and cookies but don’t see everything going into making them on a professional level. So, here are 5 things they don’t tell you about being a pastry chef. If you are a pastry chef, you’ll be able to relate. If you want to be a pastry chef, take this as advice. If you’re just interested in the life of a pastry chef, stay tuned for interesting things!
We don’t like being asked, “What’s your favorite thing to make?”
In my 12 years, this is by FAR the most common question I get asked! As a professional, you don’t necessarily get to make what you want: you make what sells and what’s in demand. Of course, you enjoy making and baking pastries, but sometimes, especially during events, you spend a lot of time making things you DON’T want to make, but you have to.
Valentine’s Day for pastry chefs is actually 7–8 days long, not just 1.
Yes, I said it! Valentine’s Day is a week-long event for pastry chefs. Let’s be honest; people go out for Valentine’s Day for the desserts more than the food, right? One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s all about the ‘zerts,” and Valentine’s Day is a dessert “holiday.” It is also common to have people come into the restaurant 3–5 days before the special day and ask the pastry chef to write on the dessert in chocolate something along the lines of, “Happy Early Valentine’s Day” or “Happy Early Anniversary!” The people who come early typically either don’t want to sit in a crazy busy and loud restaurant the day of, or they forgot to make a Valentine’s Day reservation, and the only available tables were on the 12th, 13th, or 15th. So keeping up on the prep work during that week is crucial as EVERYONE will be ordering dessert! I always have a good chuckle when people call in a reservation for Valentine’s Day and ask for a “quiet table.”
The phrase “Never trust a skinny pastry chef” is so 1986
Now, I happen to be a naturally slender gentleman, also physical fitness is very important to me, and I make sure I take care of my body. “Never trust a skinny pastry chef” is outdated and can be hurtful to people that take their image seriously! To be honest, I rarely have time to stop and eat as I’m so busy! Also, if you make hundreds and thousands of baked goods ALL the time, they lose their glamour after a while—with the exception of chocolate chip cookies, vanilla bean ice cream, and croissants… obviously.
Pastry Chefs LIVE for the seasons
Food is amazing, but it’s the flavors that make the food! The foods with the best flavors are the ones that are in season. Sometimes entire desserts are created off of the seasonality of 1 item. Is there anything better than biting into a perfectly ripe peach in mid-July and have the juices run down your chin? You can’t beat that.
Just because it’s dessert, doesn’t mean it’s sugary and sweet
A common misconception with desserts is that they are ALWAYS sweet and sugary! Not true at all. I’ve spent years making desserts with common savory items that are just as good, if not better, than sugary desserts: carrots, parsnips, onions, mushrooms, vinegars, olive oil, beets, etc. If all else fails and you don’t want dessert, get some sorbet! I make a mean celery sorbet that does interesting things to your taste buds.
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Chef Jesse B. Jackson III
Jesse studied baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Jesse competed in the state competition for SkillsUSA. He won 1st place in commercial baking and placed 4th in the national competition. After graduation, Jesse moved to Boston and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park for another degree in baking and pastry arts. He was then offered the position of executive pastry chef at No.9 Park, one of the country’s most esteemed restaurants. After two years, Jesse started a business called Fedora Doughnuts, a specialty doughnut and coffee catering company.
If Mars was livable, and you accept a one-way ticket to host a party there, who would you invite (4 guests max), and what would you cook?
I would invite my mother because she birthed me and has ALWAYS supported me throughout my life and career. I would invite Jeff Goldblum, a handsome, suave, slender gentleman (like myself), and a great conversationalist. He would make dining interesting. Dominique Ansel: a visionary pastry chef. I would LOVE to pick his mind about innovation and creativity. Lastly, I would invite my mentor and godmother, Darcy Sala. She taught me everything I know about food and hospitality. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without her. I would cook the cuisine I love most: Carolina BBQ! Ribs, brisket, cornbread, slaw, smoked sausage.
Do you have any ridiculous goals in life?
Apart from being a pastry chef, I am also an avid real estate investor. So, I suppose a “ridiculous goal” would be to own 1000 rental properties across the United States, but I’m in no rush… at least before I retire.
What’s your favorite food holiday?
Favorite food holiday is National Croissant Day!