Some people were just born to do their jobs. And what lucky people they are! While some of us are stuck with the 9-to-5 grind, others -- gasp -- look forward to going to work each day. They get to do what they're best at, be it playing music, writing books, building houses or baking cakes.
How does someone turn a skill into a career? How and when did these people know that they could make a living doing what they enjoy? Perhaps Picasso spent his childhood finger painting, and little Frank Lloyd Wright enjoyed building things with wooden blocks. Maybe Donna Karan made the most fashionable outfits for her Barbie dolls. Who knows? And you -- maybe you were born to be a pastry chef. Let's find out.
Every kid's made a mud pie or two -- sitting out in the dirt, a bucket of water by your side, a pile of mud in front of you, shaping and rolling with your messy little hands. All the other kids? Well, their mud pies were so pedestrian. Plain, round mounds of mud, with pieces of grass sticking out all willy-nilly. Your mud pie, on the other hand, was a work of art. It was tiered! Grass artfully placed around the perimeter of each layer, a fine sprinkling of sand on top for texture and crunch. Perhaps maybe even a flower or two, tastefully placed in the center. Yes, kid, you've got a future!
Many pastry chef positions require long days with untraditional hours. If you specialize in breads and breakfast pastries, expect to start your day around 3 or 4 a.m. Bread takes a while to rise, and a lot of work goes into preparing and baking pastry dough. If you're one of those people who can't stand talking to anyone early in the morning, pastry chef might be the job for you. You'll likely be alone in the kitchen during those wee hours of the morning -- just you, your flour and your mixer. Many chefs find the solitary process of baking to be a very Zenlike experience. So, if you'd prefer your morning meditation to occur over breads, yeast and pastry cream, get in touch with your inner baking Buddha.
Although it takes huge talent to be either a pastry chef or a savory chef, pastry chefs in particular seem to have an eye for detail. This works out well for baking, since the process relies on a lot of science. You can't just toss flour, baking soda and yeast into a bowl and then just see how it all works out. Chemical reactions need to take place, measurements must be precise and temperature is key. Are you the kind of person who craves order? Do you arrange all the ingredients out on the counter in tiny little pre-measured bowls? Do you run not one, but two, timers -- just in case one malfunctions? Then you'll probably make a great pastry chef.
Whether you bake as a hobby or bake for a living, powdered sugar is probably a big part of your life. And if you're really into it, then you know the stuff gets everywhere. Where have you found powdered sugar? Underneath the microwave. Stuck to the side of the coffeepot. In the pocket of your apron. Inside your shoes. In your hair. Smeared across your face. On the paws of Fluffy the cat.
After awhile, you just get used to it. If your kitchen is layered with a thin dusting of confectionary sugar, you might make a great pastry chef. Extra points if you've ever left the house and gone out in public with a powdered sugar handprint on your butt.
You get invited to a lot of parties. Of course, it might be your sparkling personality. Or your quick wit and good looks. But if every invitation ends with a hopeful "And could you bring dessert?" you might make a good pastry chef. Do you look at every dinner party as an opportunity to try out a new recipe, instead of bringing the same tired old brownies? Did you ever plan to go to the church social and wonder if a croquembouche with spun caramel might be a little too formal? If you've ever stayed up all night piping tiny little flowers onto dozens of chocolate-dipped petit fours for a potluck neighborhood dinner, perhaps the life of a pastry chef is the one for you.
So, tie on that apron, flour up your hands and get ready for greatness. And to find out more about baking and cooking, check out the links on the next page.
If you would love to eat ice cream all day, maybe you can put that desire to work as a food taster. Learn more about food tasters at HowStuffWorks.