Jacquy Pfeiffer's (left in photo) pastry chef career has crossed the world. His unequaled palate of sight, taste, and touch has been displayed through his award-winning competitions. At age 17, he earned the coveted title of Best Apprentice of his State. Years later, the masterful artistic sculptures he created afforded him the opportunity to become a member of the U.S. World Pastry Cup Team, and upon winning the bronze medal, Pfeiffer achieved the highest honor awarded to a U.S. Team.
In 1995, he became the first person ever to win the National Chocolate Competition, Masters of Chocolate. Competing again in Paris for the World Final, he won first prize in presentation and second prize overall with his sculpture, "The Lore of Flight."
CookingSchools.com: When and how did you decide to become a pastry chef?
Jacquy Pfeiffer: My father owned a bakery in Alsace, France, and I started my apprenticeship in a pastry shop in Strasbourg, France, at the age of 15 in 1976.
CS: Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?
JP: Yves Thuries, Gaston Lenotre, Pascal Caffet, Olivier Bajard, Pascal Brunstein.
CS: What do you enjoy most about being a pastry chef?
JP: Our profession has many different aspects; therefore, one can never get bored.
CS:What was your greatest career success and biggest setback?
JP:Opening my pastry school in Chicago; so far, I have not had any major setbacks.
CS: What is your specialty and why did you choose it?
JP: My specialty is to adapt to any environment. I worked in many different countries, and I found it very challenging to figure out a way to produce fine pastries no matter what conditions I was working in.
CS: What exactly do pastry chefs do?
JP: They bring happiness to people. When people enter a pastry shop they should be fascinated by the pastries offered and should make them think back to their childhood.
CS: How much are pastry chefs generally paid? Are they generally paid by the hour or by salary?
JP: Pastry cooks are paid by the hour, anywhere from $6.50 to $20.00 an hour. Pastry chefs are paid by salary, anywhere from $27,000 to $200,000 a year.
CS: Tell us about where you work. What do you like most, least?
JP: I teach pastry in my school, I provide pastry consulting services and I create pastry products. What I like the least is that there is not enough hours in a day.
CS: How important is it to create & maintain relationships within the culinary profession? If it is, how do you do it?
JP: It is crucial to always network with chefs around the world; it always should be done on a professional level.
THE CULINARY PROFESSION
CS: What are some of the tools of the trade for pastry chefs? Which ones do you use most?
JP: Silpat and Flexipan rubber mats revolutionized the pastry industry; these are the ones that I used the most.
CS: What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?
JP: The small digital thermometer that beeps when a mixture reaches a certain temperature.
CS: How much and what kind of work is done outside of the kitchen?
JP: My wife, Laura Pfeiffer is pastry chef at Frontera grill; therefore, we always do some kind of cooking or baking at home.
CS: What are some trends that you see in the field that might help prospective students?
JP: Attitude becomes more important than skills; skills can be taught, attitude can't.
CS: Are there any common myths about pastry chefs? If so, how much truth is there to them?
JP: The myth is that pastry chefs do not do much: The reason for that is that a pastry chef is usually more organized and can plan more ahead then a chef; therefore, they can prepare more things in advance, and they look like they do not do much.
CS: What are some of the skills that help all pastry chefs succeed?
JP: Never get emotional; always stay humble always learn.
CS: Are there professional certifications for pastry chefs? If so, how important are they and how are they attained?
JP: They are important because, through a certification, a pastry chef builds the foundation of its knowledge.
CS: What are the best ways to find a job as a pastry chef?
JP: Call up pastry schools; approach people that are already in the industry, network.
CS: How can graduating culinary arts students gain an advantage in their job search if they are hoping to break into the pastry specialty?
JP: They will have more knowledge then a person that is just learning on the field.
CS: How is the job market right now for pastry chefs? How do you think it will be in the next five years? 10 years?
JP: The job market is great! There is about 1 pastry chef for 5 job offers. Pastry will be so popular that this number should even get bigger.
CS: What is your degree in?
JP: Pastry science.
CS: What did you like and dislike about your culinary education?
JP: I love to see the students understand the true meaning of our teaching. I hate to see them leave.
CS: What factors did you consider when choosing a school of culinary arts or culinary department?
JP: Mostly, the teacher should be the key of one's choice.
CS: Was your culinary education worth it for you? Why?
JP: It was crucial for the development of my career.
CS: For those who have the talent already, should they go to culinary school and why?
JP: To learn the basics of our profession.
CS: What advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in the culinary arts?
JP: Join the profession as soon as possible; a professional in the food service is always going to be in demand regardless of recession people will always eat.
CS: Based on what you hear in the industry, what do you think are the most respected and prestigious pastry schools in the world that really make a difference to students who graduate from these schools?
JP: Lenotre and Yssingeaux are two pastry schools in France that produce good students. French Pastry School is recognized as the only true pastry school in the United States that is entirely dedicated to the art of pastry.
CS: Is there a major difference in the industry between graduating from a prestigious pastry school and graduating from a college with a pastry program?
JP: Pastry school provides a more intensive program than a college, and therefore, the students gain a more in depth knowledge.
CS: What advice can you give to prospective culinary arts students before they begin their education?
JP: Expect to work hard, and the dough will follow.
CS: What should culinary arts students try to get out of their school?
JP: A true understanding of our profession.
CS: What factors should prospective culinary arts students consider when choosing their school?
JP: Mostly, the quality and dedication of the teachers.
CS: Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to enter and succeed as a pastry chef?
JP: Pastry is my passion. A life time is not enough to learn and master every aspect of it.
The bio lead in was used with permission from the French Pastry School's website: http://www.frenchpastryschool.com/fps_content/fps_instructors.html. Feel free to email Jacquy here: JPfeif0927@aol.com.