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Sugar Arts inquiry

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#1 Ronald Hokanson

Ronald Hokanson
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  • Location:Detroit

Posted 25 August 2014 - 10:55 AM


I'm a 56-year old career chef who developed an interest in pulled and blown sugar, as well as gumpaste florals, within the past three years. My motivation was to simply grow and develop new skill sets, to possibly fund my retirement years, and possibly to get a teaching gig sometime down the road.

Now that I'm able to perform these skills with more than some measure of finesse, I'm curious how I might incorporate these in the real world as I don't plan to retire anytime soon. Between sugar warming cabinets, specialty cutters, veiners, airbrushes, compressors, silicone molds and the like, I have thousands vested in personal tools which I'd rather not bring into the workplace.

It would be infinitely safer and more expedient for me to make these pieces at home where my workbench is already set up, bringing the completed components into the job for final assembly. If I should end up being hired by a private catering firm who expects me to apply these skills and tools in their cake or pastry offerings, how would I negotiate a salary so I can feel some sense of compensation for these decorative pieces?

I can easily imagine working a 10 or 12-hour day on the job, followed by several additional hours at home too. How is compensation usually arranged in these cases?

Thank you!

#2 pastrygirl

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 05:09 PM

Sounds like the kind of thing for which you would charge by the piece, but let's flesh this out a little more. 


Sugar work is an impressive specialty that not a lot of people do.  Would you be able to create showpieces for large hotel events?  Or 100+ sugar baskets in which to serve a scoop of sorbet at a banquet?  Are there obstacles to shipping or delivery?  Would hot/humid summer weddings be a disaster for sugar pieces? 


The gum paste might be a harder sell in catering.  I haven't played with it myself, but my impression is that while it takes practice and tools, it's not really that technically difficult.  It seems like there is kind of a division in catering.  You have wedding cake makers who could probably do the gum paste themselves, and caterers who don't do much pastry because most weddings have cake.  You might be able to sell through the latter, like if a bride was having mini cupcakes and wanted a custom flower for each one.  If gum paste will ship OK, you could have a website or etsy store if you don't already.  Sell flowers by the dozen for cupcake toppers, and take custom orders for larger projects.  There is competition, though - https://www.etsy.com...xplicit_scope=1


I'm just having a hard time envisioning anyone needing a sugar & gum paste guy on salary.  If you're hoping to retire sometime soon, you probably don't see yourself as executive pastry chef in a big hotel, and if you go to work for a caterer either in pastry or savory, I think you'd be better off keeping your business separate and charging by the piece.