No menu is complete without an excellent desert. We are rich enough to treat ourselves with a sweet cake, juicy pie, or delicious bread after our meal–it’s one of the luxuries of Western society–coffee and cake. After lunch, after dinner, or just anytime we feel like eating one.
A cake can make or break a good menu, and restaurant owners and managers are well aware of the importance you will play in their team. Hence they choose their pastry chefs carefully, looking for someone skilled, creative, and responsible.
They will ask you a variety of questions about your experience, motivation, baking skills, ideas for their place, and also about your attitude to various situations that can happen in the kitchen and the restaurant (complaining customer, conflict with another employee, etc). Let’s have a look at some of them.
Can you please tell us more about your experience?
You won’t get far without a portfolio of your best works–nice pictures of the most beautiful and creative cakes and pies you’ve ever baked and decorated. It should include different forms and shapes, sweet and salty variations, gluten free and sugar free options.
Showcase your skills with a portfolio. To see something once is better than to hear about it a thousand times. Of course each picture should have its own story–the occasion when you baked this or that cake, the ingredients, the reception it got from the guests, and perhaps also some recognition in terms of prizes and awards.
The portfolio can actually save you even if you lack experience from other restaurants and bakeries. Because just as you can benefit from your creative inspiration and imagination in a professional kitchen, you can bake great things also at home. Once the restaurant managers see what you’ve already done, they’d have no reason to doubt your actual baking skills.
What do you know about our place? Why would you like to bake cakes here?
You should do a good research about their place, especially the pastry “division”. Check their menu before the interview to see what’s on offer. Do they make a special cake daily as a part of the menu? Do things repeat each week, or do they have a seasonal offer? And could you improve something about their selection of pastries?
If they were satisfied with their current pastry chef, with the status quo in the restaurant, they wouldn’t be looking for a new pastry chef (unless the old one left unexpectedly, of course). Keep it on your mind while talking about their place.
You should praise them for something–perhaps the vibe, the reputation of the place, the selection of meals. But you should also suggest some improvements, or at least some ideas, when it comes to the pastries guests can get at their place.
What is your favorite cuisine, and way of preparing deserts?
You can pick your favorite–be it Italian, Korean, British, or even Nepalese or Syrian cuisine. Explain what you like about it, and how the preparation of deserts differ from the rest of the world. You can also name a few favorite cakes or breads from that part of the world.
However, I suggest you to say that though you love this or that cuisine, you do not limit yourself with traditional recipes from one country only. On the contrary–you like to experiment, try new things, surprise the guests (hopefully in a positive way). You do not plan to bake brownies each day, just because you love them, and can make the best brownies in the city…
A specific situation happens when you apply for a job in a place that specialized in certain recipes or cuisines. Obviously if you apply for a job in a traditional British restaurant, you should say that British cakes and deserts are your favorite, that you can prepare them well.
* May also interest you: Restaurant interview – What are your strengths and weaknesses?
How do you ensure that the presentation of your cakes is beautiful and exciting?
The devil is in detail–a motto of each great pastry chef. You know that eyes are even hungrier than the stomach of the dining guest. We strive for cakes that smell and look good, so we can take a picture of them, or simply delight in the beauty of the chef’s creation.
You can talk about different icings and toppings you use in your work, the nice shapes and colors they allow you to create. Adding a flower (eatable one) or a small piece of fruit, to make a nice color scheme, are other of your tricks.
Regardless of the techniques you mention, ensure the interviewers that visual presentation is superbly important to you. You want to serve cakes that their guests will take a picture of, post on their social media channels, and hence attract more guests to try and dine in the restaurant.
How would you ensure to always have an appropriate stock of important baking materials, such as different flours, sugar, eggs, etc?
Try to refer to excellent planning in your work. You typically won’t respond for buying the goods (a buyer will be responsible), but you will always try to have your baking plans ready at least a few days in advance. And you will be very exact–how much flour you need, any special ingredients that go into the cake you plan to bake next Wednesday, etc.
What’s more, you will always order a bit more, and try to have the basic ingredients stocked at any time, to ensure that you’ll be able to answer an unexpected demand of the guests, who just do not have enough of your excellent pastries.
You will have one or two assistants in this job. These guys will earn a minimum wage, and can struggle with motivation. How do you plan to motivate them?
First of all, you’ll be a cook, not a restaurant manager, or the owner. Suggesting to offer them a raise just won’t work, because you won’t be authorized to make such a move. Try to focus on something else.
For example, you can say that you will try to help your assistants grow. Everyone starts with washing dishes and doing basic stuff. But you will gradually entrust them with more advanced duties, such as working the dough, applying the icing on the cake, or anything else. Helping them to feel important, you help them to stay motivated.
Another option consists in focusing on relationships. Everyone who worked in a few restaurants will tell you that many chefs have big egos, and it’s a pain to work under them. They scold their helpers for everything, and rarely praise them for anything.
But you want to be different. You want to create a friendly atmosphere in the workplace. Of course people have to work hard, but it doesn’t mean that you have to shout on them, or beat them with a wooden spoon. You will try to strengthen the team spirit in your kitchen, so people feel responsible for one another, and try their best each day, working as a team.
Do you have any experience with preparing gluten free (sugar free, vegan, raw) deserts?
Food intolerance is ever more prevalent in Western society. Gluten and lactose intolerance lead the way. Ensure the interviewers that you watch the trends, and that you spent enough time experimenting with gluten free or lactose free deserts. It doesn’t mean that these are your favorite choices, or that you want to make only the healthier options. People do not buy cakes to be healthy…
It simply means that you can prepare them, and are ready to do so, to please the variety of customers that come to enjoy their cake in a restaurant or bakery. This is also another opportunity to take your colorful portfolio from your briefcase, and show them one or two pictures of beautiful gluten free deserts you prepared before.
Other questions you may face in your pastry chef job interview
- Imagine that one of the guests complained loudly that the cake they ordered was way too sweat. How would you react?
- What motivates you the most in this job?
- What are some of your favorite flavor combinations for winter season?
- Tell us about the last conflict you had with one of your colleagues in your former place of work.
- In your opinion, where I can get the best pastries in this city? What makes that place special?
- What is your desired salary?
* You can also download all questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
Conclusion, next steps
Your experience is important in this interview, but not decisive. The most important thing is whether you can convince them about your baking & decorating skills, with the help of your portfolio.
You do not necessarily need five years of experience. Even if you prepare stuff just at home, or run your own small business, baking cakes for friends and their friends, it’s good enough for most employers, as long as they see that you can really prepare something tasty and beautiful.
Try to learn something about their place–the cakes they serve, ingredients they use, their target customer. And try to prepare at least a short answer to each question from my list.
If you show them a nice portfolio, and do not remain silent when they ask you their questions, you will typically get a chance to prove your skills in the job. I wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- Cook interview questions – Skill matters more than words in this case. But you will have to answer some questions. Learn how to do it the right way.
- Hotel interview questions – General questions you may get while applying for any position in a hotel industry.
- Sous Chef interview questions.