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Top Pastry Schools in America

by Nadia Archuleta, studioD

The career path of being a pastry chef requires varied and specific skills. While attending a pastry school is not necessary, students gain valuable exposure to the industry side of culinary arts, especially regarding business management. School credentials for pastry chefs range from an American Culinary Federation certificate to an associate or even a bachelor's in pastry arts.

Le Cordon Bleu

Le Cordon Bleu is a Paris-based institution with a long, celebrated history: The first school was founded in 1885. Julia Child is an alumnus. Le Cordon Bleu has 16 schools across the U.S. Students receive hands-on training from professional chef-instructors in industry-equipped kitchens. They have the opportunity to earn a certificate in Pâtisserie and Baking. The certificate program in Pâtisserie and Baking is comprised of 30 weeks of intensive study that usually takes 15 months. The school also offers an associate in baking pastry arts, which usually takes 21 months to complete.

The Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America has campuses in New York, California and Texas. The CIA in New York offers both an associate and bachelor's in baking and pastry arts management while the other two campuses only feature the associate degree. However, even in the associate program, students learn to create specialty breads, pastries, desserts, confections and pâtisserie. In addition to hands-on instruction in the school, students take an 18-week externship, a paid position at one of 1,200 CIA-approved establishments not only in the U.S., but in places like Hong Kong and London, England. The externship, a graduation requirement, grants students the chance to practice their newly-learned skills.

The Art Institute

The Art Institute offers certification as well as associate and bachelor's degrees in culinary arts, allowing students to concentrate their studies in baking and pastry. Students learn from industry professionals in instructional kitchens. With the baking and pastry program, students get hands-on practice in baking skills that include fundamental techniques as well as desserts, cake decoration and pastry arts. Goals include being able to follow recipes accurately, knowing regulations regarding food and becoming proficient in plating and decorating baked goods. Instruction even focuses on candies and sculpture pieces. Students likewise receive instruction in business essentials.

Johnson & Wales University

Johnson & Wales is a traditional university that allows students to earn an Associate of Science or even a Bachelor of Science in culinary arts. Students have the opportunity to focus their studies for either degree in baking and pastry arts, though not all campuses offer those options. After completing the two-year associate degree, students can create French pastries, wedding cakes, plated desserts and artisan breads. Students can take two more years and produce pastry show pieces using the school's advanced technology and equipment. The additional training, besides conferring a bachelor's degree, prepares students to become executive pastry chefs or pastry shop owners.

About the Author

Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.

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