A pastry chef, or patissier, is a professional dessert maker who may work in a restaurant, bakery, cruise ship, or hotel kitchen. He or she may make pies, cakes, fresh-baked cookies, candies, chocolates, and dessert sauces. These chefs sometimes bake fresh bread, but not if the professional kitchen includes a baker, or boulanger. In general, a pastry chef works with sweetened rather than unsweetened dough.
The chef de cuisine is in charge of the entire professional kitchen. He or she plans the menu and sets the budget. The executive chef is second in command and this is to whom the patissier usually reports. The pastry chef is the head of the dessert station and oversees as well as trains his or her assistants. Plating desserts is a common task of assistant chefs.
Since head pastry chefs manage their stations, they are also responsible for planning the dessert menu, ordering ingredients, and testing recipes. All of the professional kitchen station heads typically meet regularly with the chef de cuisine and his or her executive to sample recipes and work out menu details. Like the other chefs, patissiers often use seasonal food items in their desserts.
For example, a hearty autumn meal of assorted German sausage dishes and winter vegetables may feature the pastry chef's own recipe for an apple cinnamon strudel with caramel sauce. By contrast, a light summer meal of grilled shrimp and zucchini vinaigrette may be completed with the patissier's fresh strawberry pie that has an extra-flaky crust. A pastry chef must be imaginative in creating unique desserts, yet also offer sweets that will be popular with the establishment's customers and compliment the rest of the menu.
Patissiers usually have training from a pastry chef school that may offer two- to four-year programs. This training typically includes an understanding of different dessert courses, such as those that include wine and cheese. These chefs are also trained in pairing sweet desserts with alcohol, such as poached pears in champagne and chocolate with port. If a pastry chef decides to serve something that is usually simple, such as a cupcake, he or she may create a sophisticated version such as dark chocolate cakes with Merlot, or other dark French wine, in the frosting.