Top Pastry Chef Schools
As skilled workers, pastry chefs must acquire extensive experience to move up in the industry. To get this experience, students usually pursue one of two possible training pathways. One model steers learners to supervised apprenticeships and other hands-on instruction in an actual work setting. This is a more traditional and typically less expensive option.
Another pathway encourages students to enroll in pastry chef school to pursue credentials ranging from ACF certificates to Associate and Bachelor degrees in the pastry arts. This path has brought thousands into the discipline, but has also stirred heated debates concerning the utility of debt-intensive culinary school degrees in the current job market. If you’d like to attend a formal program to become a pastry chef, you can find baking and pastry arts programs in your area here.
Nevertheless, enrollment in pastry arts schools is high and still rising. Students seek degrees in this field to gain an advantage in terms of training and exposure to the industry, especially on the business management side. The American Culinary Foundation (ACF) certifies programs in an informal system of accreditation. ACF offers 14 certifications, including the Certified Working Pastry Chef, Certified Master Pastry Chef and Certified Pastry Culinarian diplomas.
1. Auguste Escoffier Baking and Pastry Arts Program
The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is named for the distinguished master of traditional French cooking, but increasingly it is attracting aspiring pastry chefs for its modernized programming. The school now offers coursework in specialized sectors, from corporate catering and multinational cuisines to molecular gastronomy research.
Last year, the Escoffier Restaurant, the school’s famous classical French dining facility, was converted to the Bocuse Restaurant, renamed for an innovative Lyonnaise chef to reflect the program’s new modern mood. The Bocuse is one of five restaurants owned by the Auguste Escoffier school. Here, pastry arts students develop the dessert menu for Bocuse, and fill its bakery with gourmet confections.
Degree OptionsStudents at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts can earn an Associate degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. Online certifications are also available.
Campus LocationsThe Baking and Pastry Arts program is active at campuses in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
AdmissionsAdmission requirements vary by campus. You can get more information about the August Escoffier Baking and Pastry Arts program here.
2. Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Pastry Arts Program
Le Cordon Bleu (LCB) is the world’s largest education institution, according to the University Herald online publication. Exclusively focused on food arts, the Paris-based school was originally founded over a century ago in 1895. As a high-profile culinary arts vocational school, Le Cordon Bleu has more than 24,000 baking and pastry arts students currently enrolled across its many sites.
The distinguished Le Cordon Bleu brand, famous for such alumni as Julia Child and Nathalie Dupree, was purchased by the American multinational Career Education Corporation (CEC) in 2009. CEC currently owns more than 90 campuses worldwide, although Bloomberg reports the Illinois-based college chain is closing 23 of its campuses amid falling stock prices and enrollment. Le Cordon Bleu schools are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
Degree OptionsLCB offers a Certificate for its 30-week intensive Patisserie & Baking program, which provides an overview of theory and basic techniques usually lasting about 15 months. It also offers an Associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, commonly earned over a 21-month period.
Campus LocationsThere are LCB Colleges of Culinary Arts around the world and across the U.S., including 16 campuses in major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami where job markets may be brightest. The Dallas campus, established in 1999, is considered an especially attractive option for pastry makers.
AdmissionsDifferent Cordon Bleu campuses have different tuition rates and admission requirements. You can find out more about the Le Cordon Blue baking and pastry arts programs here.
3. Culinary Institute of America’s Baking and Pastry Arts Program
A medium-sized, four-year private school for food professionals, the Culinary Institute of America, or CIA, is a respected academy and one of the most popular pastry schools in the U.S. The midsize, not-for-profit institution was founded in 1946 as a two-year trade school. Today, it is an accredited four-year undergraduate college with multiple degrees and six decades of experience teaching the culinary arts—more than any other comparable institution.
The regionally accredited CIA is known for its post-graduation employment outlook, particularly in New York. Enrollees at the Hyde Park campus benefit from the nearby NYC area’s world-class restaurants, diverse cuisine, and unique, chef-driven culture. There is also a relative local density of well-paying positions in professional food service. Here, some 300 companies annually recruit on campus.
Degree OptionsThe CIA offers an Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts and a Bachelor’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts Management at the Hyde Park site. The Associate program, including an 18-week “externship,” is a prerequisite for the Bachelor degree. The California and San Antonio campuses only offer the Associate Degree.
Campus LocationsCIA’s main campus is in Hyde Park, New York, located in the Hudson Valley. It also maintains branches in St. Helena, California and San Antonio, Texas.
AdmissionsApplicants can choose one of four enrollment seasons.
4. The Art Institute Baking & Pastry Program
Similarly to Le Cordon Bleu, the Art Institutes comprise a for-profit consortium of technical schools. However, the Art Institutes focus on a variety of artistic and craft-related fields, among them the culinary arts, which includes a specialization in pastry preparation. The school system is owned by the Education Management Corporation (EDMC).
The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington is a noted campus for pastry chefs. The campus offers Baking & Pastry coursework that benefits from large facilities and knowledgeable staff, as well as the in-house training ground called Culinaire Restaurant, a holistic environment for pastry arts students to develop their skills in a realistic, team-driven customer service setting.
Degree OptionsThe Art Institutes offer entry-level certificates, two-year Associate, and four-year Bachelor of Arts diplomas in culinary arts with a Baking & Pastry concentration.
Campus LocationsThe following Arts Institutes offer an ACF-accredited degrees: Arlington, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Seattle.
AdmissionsThe Art Institutes encourages prospective students to visit an Open House at any campus. You can also request more information about the Art Institutes’ Baking and Pastry Arts programs here.