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Working in a small cafe vs a bigger place.


lisa_antonia
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I currently work as an assistant pastry chef in a small cafe (the most we'll ever do in one day is maybe 200, with the average being 80-120.) We do breads, pastries for catered events, and around 6 different desserts which change every 4-6 weeks.

I'm meeting with the executive chef of another restaurant this week to discuss a pastry chef opening. This restaurant is much more popular, and rather huge with a seperate pastry kitchen with a large ice cream machine, a sheeter, bread ovens, chocolate tempering machines etc...They'd be able to offer me a better salary and benefits.

I am wondering what people like or dislike about small vs large jobs. I worry that in a large restaurant things will be a lot more stressful since pastry staff remain there for service (as opposed to my other job, where we work after hours).

I love the prospect of learning new equipment and techniques and working for a restaurant that has a much more sophisticated approach to desserts and presentation. I guess my main concern is that the environment could be much more corporate/impersonal and that working on one particular image/style could become soulless and stifling.

So can someone give me some insight on why they like or dislike working for large restaurants or restaurant groups?

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Benefits and security. Annonymity can be a good thing. I mean every work place has it's own personality. Sometimes you can flavor your area to make it your own to a certain point and thus more habitable if things aren't as comfortable as in a smaller place. So money and benefits don't always beat out a nice job. You might have more networking abilites at the bigger place. So many variables.

What are your goals? Do you want to advance or just have a nice niche job?

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Benefits and security. Annonymity can be a good thing. I mean every work place has it's own personality. Sometimes you can flavor your area to make it your own to a certain point and thus more habitable if things aren't as comfortable as in a smaller place. So money and benefits don't always beat out a nice job. You might have more networking abilites at the bigger place. So many variables.

What are your goals? Do you want to advance or just have a nice niche job?

I don't want to be famous- but I want to gain respect in my local food community. I want to be able to give creative input. I want to gain more technical skills (i am largely self taught and always looking to continue my learning.)

I was very nervous about interviewing somewhere else when I feel rather committed to my current job, but a friend told me if I want to make this a career, it would be stupid not to look at other sorts of options.

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My career has taken me from 50 seat restaurants to being the assistant corporate pastry chef for a restaurant group that owned 9 at the time. It depends on your skill level, i dont just mean pastry. You have to have mangerial skills, computer knowledge, HR, etc... I spent more time in the office in the corporate gig, i learned alot about the business side which helped in my transition to Pastry shop owner. You will have to wear many hats.....

Is the bigger place busier or just bigger?

What is your skill level? Do you think you can handle the reins in a big place?

Don't take a job you may not be ready for, it will be a bad move and you will have to play catch up.

In my opinion, I think you should look for a job in a little bigger of place that will offer more creative freedom and allow you to grow gradually not rapidly. But you maybe ready, if you ARE ready than go for it. This forum has lots of people that can guide you in the right direction.

If you need a voice, I'm on the east coast and I can be reached @ 516-794-4478

Brian, Sweet Karma Desserts

"Chocolate has no calories....

Chocolate is food for the soul, The soul has no weight, therefore no calories" so said a customer, a lovely southern woman, after consuming chocolate indulgence

SWEET KARMA DESSERTS

www.sweetkarmadesserts.com

550 East Meadow Ave. East meadow, NY 11554

516-794-4478

Brian Fishman

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In my opinion, I think you should look for a job in a little bigger of place that will offer more creative freedom and allow you to grow gradually not rapidly. But you maybe ready, if you ARE ready than go for it. This forum has lots of people that can guide you in the right direction.

If you need a voice, I'm on the east coast and I can be reached @ 516-794-4478

Brian, Sweet Karma Desserts

Thanks Brian, this reply was very helpful.

It is both busier and bigger, and one of the biggest differences is the air of prestigious haughtiness...Still, the interview was very helpful. It sounds as though i'll be offered a part time production position in the mornings, which would work well with my current schedule.

I don't really have the best sense of how good my skills are, since my work experience is rather limited. Here's what I can tell you; can you give any suggestions for what I might work on?

Decent piping and decorating skills (still practicing away...)

A few breads (focaccia, brioche, sourdough, a few table and sandwich breads.)

Very comprehensive knowledge of custards/ice creams/things needing tempering

Short doughs, sugar doughs, choux pastry

Mousses, gelatin or egg based

Many varieties of cakes and meringues

Basic knowledge of chocolate, but I haven't tempered it before, and I cannot shape well into ruffles/cigarettes etc. (also practicing...)

Knowledge of sanitation/servsafe practices

Scones, quickbreads

Cookies, bar cookies, shortbreads, pies, macaroons, macarons

Buttercream, Ganache, Glacage

Caramel and sugar garnishes, but not much else.

Good with budget, money, and time management.

I'm pretty weak in the decorating department, compared to everything else. I think there's a ton more I could learn about breads, particularly good shaping techniques. I don't have any experience with laminated doughs/puff pastry, though i've made some blitz puff pastry recipes.

I guess i'm wondering what the next step is? I am mostly self taught (baking since I was very very young.) I've been building work experience for a while- I started with catering and camp cooking, then moved up to an actual pastry position. Now i'm looking at another position at a much more prestigious restaurant.

I guess i'm wondering what the next step is? I don't really want to make the financial investment of culinary school. I'd rather just keep building experience. I'd love a chance to work in europe, or even just other places on the east and west coast (NY, SF...anywhere else.) I've been browsing for places that would teach me skills I want to learn.

Any insight?

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I think you are on the right track. Search out all the TOP people in your area, contact them and try and get in to do a stage. Pick individuals who are highly skilled in the areas you feel you are weakest. Sometimes Passion (in this industry) is more powerful than culinary school. But remember you said you didnt want to make the financial investment, so this is another way of investing your money (since you dont get paid for a stage, the $$$ you would be making is seen as an "investment" in your future)

I have my own business, I think I am pretty good and I make sure every chance I get (or what ever time my wife allows) to spend time in other Chefs kitchens, learning from each other.

You seem to have a good foundation, build on your strengths and try and eliminate your weaknesses by filling them with on the job training.

"Chocolate has no calories....

Chocolate is food for the soul, The soul has no weight, therefore no calories" so said a customer, a lovely southern woman, after consuming chocolate indulgence

SWEET KARMA DESSERTS

www.sweetkarmadesserts.com

550 East Meadow Ave. East meadow, NY 11554

516-794-4478

Brian Fishman

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small companies:

more volatile

smaller workforce (harder to get time off sometimes)

less benefits

less beaucracy

usually more tight nit

sometimes you have to be able to wear different hats to succeed

larger companies:

can sometimes be better organised

better benefits

more corporate feel usually

change happens slowly sometimes

in the end you follow your vision, and if you don't have a vision then i suggest varying your experiences with different companies so that you are an easily adaptable employee. your next step must come from you; i am responsible for my career success (not the culinary school i attended or didn't attend).

that's what i value and what has helped me.

Edited by artisanbaker (log)
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I currently work as an assistant pastry chef in a small cafe

I'm meeting with the executive chef of another restaurant this week to discuss a pastry chef opening.

They'd be able to offer me a better salary and benefits.

I am wondering what people like or dislike about small vs large jobs. I worry that in a large restaurant things will be a lot more stressful since pastry staff remain there for service (as opposed to my other job, where we work after hours).

I love the prospect of learning new equipment and techniques and working for a restaurant that has a much more sophisticated approach to desserts and presentation. I guess my main concern is that the environment could be much more corporate/impersonal and that working on one particular image/style could become soulless and stifling.

So can someone give me some insight on why they like or dislike working for large restaurants or restaurant groups?

If knowledge is what you seek, then maybe you need to ask how much your time learning is worth. If they are offering you a large salary and benefits, there may be expectations beyond your comfort level... especially with regard to production versus service of plated desserts.

I have worked as a small fish in a very large and swanky Manhattan high-life pond and as a big fish in a small cozy "had complete creative control but only did 60-100 desserts a night" pond. In the former I was one of 6 service crew and in the latter I was production and lunch service except on weekends, when i was dinner service. I moved from the big pond to the small one becasue I grew tired of the company drama, and wanted to reconnect with my Asian background, but I would not give up either of those learning experiences.

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