Nigel Killeen—Getty Images
By Kristen Bahler
October 13, 2016

At a time when desserts are trademarked and bespoke wedding cakes come at a premium, it’s not surprise that the demand for pastry chefs is rising faster than dough in the oven.

But while the job market for Americans trained in dessert making the is best it has ever been, aspiring pastry chefs are finding that their dreams of good wages are crumbling like overly dry crust.

So says the New York Times, which used restauranteurs in Chicago—a nexus of food and tourism—as a litmus test. While employers in the Chicago area are hiring, the Times says, they are increasingly relying on inexperienced pastry chefs who will settle for lower salaries.

Pastry chefs working for John Shields, executive chef and proprietor of a pair of restaurants called Smyth and The Loyalist, are a prime example. As the Times notes:

Mr. Shields’s case illustrates how restaurants have managed to keep salaries in check. Instead of hiring a pastry chef who spent years honing her skills, he chose to hire a pair of sous-chefs in their mid-20s for each restaurant. He pays them about $35,000 a year. Mr. Shields, a longtime savory chef who did a tour at the famed Chicago restaurant Alinea, and his wife and business partner Karen Urie Shields, a former executive pastry chef at another noted Chicago eatery, Charlie Trotter’s, conceptualize the desserts. The two younger chefs execute them.

Many restaurants “have adopted some variation of the Shields’s strategy,” by using young, fresh-out-of culinary art school students for pastry chef roles, the Times writes.

Compensation research firm PayScale finds that the average pastry chef in the U.S. makes between $21,000 and $51,000. In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that chefs earned the most in Northeastern and Western states, and the least in Central and Midwestern states.


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