Updated on August 21st, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
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How do you handle stressful situations?
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Picture yourself making flowers for a wedding cake, squeezing and molding fondant for hours. You prepare the cake exactly as requested by the client, but when they see it, they decide they want something different, and you only have two hours to get it together! As a pastry chef, you must learn to expect the unexpected! There are different types of stress in a job. In this role, you will need to be prepared to change gears at any given moment. You may find yourself kneading dough for two hours and then you're putting the details on the tiniest tarts while managing clients and staff.
"I am experienced in keeping up with the fast pace of the kitchen and working with my staff to prepare the best quality baked goods."
Picture yourself in the back of the bakery in a tiny kitchen with no windows, tension rising high like the yeast in your sourdough bread! In a high-stress work environment with so many moving parts and people involved, you need to be able to keep your cool. This not only benefits you, but it also helps the morale of your team. When you're asked a question about dealing with conflict or overcoming a challenge, think of an example first. Having a concrete situation to draw from will help you to think through the steps you take to deal with conflict.
"My coworker and I had a misunderstanding about the schedule. We both got frustrated, so I took a step back and asked if we could talk about it when we are both calm so that the tension didn't escalate. The next day I pulled him aside and asked if we could talk. We both shared our sides of the story and realized it was just a miscommunication."
Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
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Even though you may have a great relationships with your boss, there will be times where you don't see eye to eye. Think of a conflict or disagreement you had with your boss where responded well, either by suggesting a compromise or taking a calm, relaxed stance when you could have responded in a heated tone. Compromise puts you in a great position with your boss, because it shows your desire to work together and your creative problem solving ability. If you share a situation where you could not find a common ground, discuss how you were willing to share your opinion and also willing to let your boss decide. This shows your humility and willingness to pick your battles, letting the small things slide to focus on more important issues.
Do you work well on a team? Or do you prefer to work on your own?
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When an interviewer asks a question like this, they are really interested in two things:
1) Are you flexible?
2) Can you manage yourself?
As a pastry chef, you will need to collaborate with your team when cooking and planning for meals and events. Working on a team requires you to be open and adaptive to working with people who are different from you. They may have different opinions and work styles. Even while working on a team you will need to be able to manage yourself by managing your time and prioritizing tasks just as you would when working alone. You might consider responding with, "I enjoy working on a team because I love getting input from my co-workers, but I also enjoy working independently." You can even share an example of a good experience you had when working on a team in culinary school or in your most recent restaurant job.
"I enjoy working on a team because I love getting input from my co-workers, but I also enjoy working independently."
Are you able to work overtime, weekends, and holidays?
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Pastry chefs often work long hours, starting in the wee hours of the morning and sometimes working through the night. You may work a 12-hour day or even multiple shifts in a day, taking breaks in between. Many pastry chefs work with event companies to provide cakes and other treats for weddings, galas, or catering events. Depending on the work environment, expect to work long hours with few breaks, especially before meals. Explain your availability, but be clear that you are willing to work whatever shifts they require. If you're not sure what to expect, ask! Every company is different.
6. Preparing food in a kitchen requires working in confined spaces and sharing work areas. How will you deal with this environment? Stay positive! Working in such small spaces can be extremely intense. If you're not careful, your bad attitude could rub off on someone else, and before you know it the whole team is down in the dumps! Be sure to express to the interviewer that you try not to take anything personally and you aim to stay in good spirits, even when things go wrong. Here is an answer example: 7. Which dessert is your favorite to make? When you go on a baking spree, do you crank out dozens of cookies or prefer to bake pies till your arms are sore from rolling out so many crusts? The only way you could make a mistake on this question is if you simply answer, 'I don't know.' Know your desserts! If it's difficult to decide, think about why you decided to become a pastry chef in the first place. Maybe you found yourself perfecting the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe, experimenting with different types of milk and flour. Or maybe when you get that sugar craving, you rush to the pantry to gather all of the best ingredients for your favorite gooey brownie recipe. Share what you like to bake and why! Here is an answer example: 8. What have you done in the past year to improve yourself? Share something you have done that has helped you in your personal and professional life. Learning to slow down and manage stress better is a good example. You can share tools and tips you are applying to your life that have helped you to be more effective at your job. You could even share a weakness that you are working on and how making this improvement has helped you so far. This will show that you are proactive by making changes to help you move forward and have a positive outlook on life. Here is an answer example: 9. How do you make pastry cream? There are numerous terms that you will need to be familiar with and know how to make as a pastry chef. Pastry cream is typically used as a filling for cream puffs, cakes, and donuts. It's so sweet and tasty, you may find yourself eating it by the spoonful! If you're not sure how to make pastry cream, take a look online at some recipes or videos and then head over to the kitchen to get baking! Here is an answer example: 10. How would you describe your experience in culinary school? The interviewer wants to know about the highlights of your education. Take some time before your interview to reflect on what you learned and the experiences that shaped you. Here's an example answer:
"I learned so much from my time at Le Cordon Bleu. The instructors were amazing and inspiring, and my peers really challenged me to focus and express my creativity. I learned the importance of precision and the value of trusting your instincts."
Get as specific as you can to show what you learned and help paint a picture of your experience. This will show that you are ready and qualified for the role! Here is an answer example: "I learned so much from my time at Le Cordon Bleu. The instructors were amazing and inspiring, and my peers really challenged me to focus and express my creativity. I learned the importance of precision and the value of trusting your instincts."11. What ingredient do you feel is underutilized? The interviewer wants to get an idea of your style. If you have a preference on baking sweet or savory goodies, think about a special ingredient you enjoy using that you think could be used more frequently. It could be lemon zest, cinnamon or maybe almond extract. Maybe you like pumpkin in everything! It's all a matter of preference. Be sure to give a couple of examples of recipes you have crafted using this special ingredient. Here is an answer example: 12. What is the most rewarding part of being a pastry chef? Think about what makes you happy to come to work every day. Talk to the interviewer about your favorite part of your job as a pastry chef. Here is an answer example: "I enjoy the fact that I get to be creative on a daily basis. The fast pace of a kitchen is exhilarating and each day goes by so incredibly fast."13. Where do you see yourself in five years? The interviewer wants to find out if you think about the future when you think about your job as a pastry chef. It's important to have some professional goals, so if you don't have a clue where you want to be in five years just yet, take some time to think about it! Your goals can be as simple as, "I want to start my own business in a few years after I get more experience in the industry." Focus your response on ways that the position you're interviewing for will help you to achieve this goal. Think about some of the other steps you'll need to take in order to get there. Identify how this position will equip you with the skills and experience you need to be successful! Here is an answer example: "I want to start my own business in a few years after I get more experience in the industry."14. What are your career goals? You may plan to continue working as a pastry chef for a long time. Maybe you are interested in moving into managing catering events or even opening your own bakery. Your goal could also be to further your training, studying under some of the best chefs in the country. Showing that you are interested in growing on a personal and a professional level is important to convey to your interviewer. Here is an answer example: "My goal is to work with a wedding planner at an event company, so I have been baking wedding cakes for friends. I'm looking forward to the challenge of preparing a wide variety of pastries and baked goods at this job. I love working in an environment where I am constantly learning new things!"15. What is your greatest accomplishment? Pastry chefs are required to meet tight deadlines every day! It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it! Give an example of an achievement that shows you take initiative to accomplish your goals. Here is an answer example: "Even though I am passionate about baking, I knew that culinary school would be a challenge. In order to achieve my goal of becoming a pastry chef, I gave myself a time frame for school and was realistic about how I would be able to complete the training while working full time. I set a deadline for when I wanted to complete my certification and I worked hard at my internship to learn as much as I could!"16. Why should we hire you? Walk the interviewer through your experience and education as a sous chef. Treat this questions like a snapshot of your resume. Here is an answer example: "I completed my formal education at The Institute of Culinary Education; one of the top schools in the country. I have also worked as a pastry chef at a couple of very well known bakeries in the city, such as Sweet Mandy B's. I have led teams of up to 9 kitchen staff and also have a proven record of assisting with food cost savings."17. Why did you choose to become a pastry chef? How did you become so passionate about baking? You can share a story from your childhood, thinking back on those summer days when you spent hours in the kitchen experimenting with baking chocolate cookies for the first time. Here's another example: "I have always enjoyed baking because I love to share my goodies with friends and family. It makes me happy to make other people happy by simply doing something that I love. The science and the creative side to making really motivates me and keeps me going, even in a fast-paced environment." Here is an answer example: "I have always enjoyed baking because I love to share my goodies with friends and family. It makes me happy to make other people happy by simply doing something that I love. The science and the creative side to making really motivates me and keeps me going, even in a fast-paced environment."18. What are some of your favorite flavor combinations? If you're not sure where to start with this question, you may want to consult a flavor chart! You can find them in your materials from culinary school or online. An interviewer may be asking about flavor combinations to test your creativity and your ability to bake from scratch with or without a recipe. Depending on what you're baking, you only want to combine two or three flavors. You might choose between a fruit, a spice, and a liquor, perhaps even a wildcard like bacon! Let's say your main ingredient is strawberry. You could combine it with mint and rum for a jam or pastry filling! The options are endless! Show off your creativity! Here is an answer example: 19. What inspired you to pursue baking professionally? When you were a child, did you spend hours on Saturday mornings watching cooking shows on TV? Or maybe you spent more time in the kitchen, experimenting with baking crepes and popovers just for fun! There may also be a celebrity chef or relative who inspired you to pursue your career as a pastry chef. Simply share what influenced you and why! Here is an answer example: 20. How do you effectively manage your time? When you have a large order of cakes, cookies, and pies to deliver by the same afternoon, there is no time to waste! They are paying you to do a job after all! Think about the ways that you control your time during the day. Here's an example of how to respond:
"I plan out my days and weeks in advance when I can, but sometimes you just have to hustle for those last minute orders! I always wear a watch and set reminders on my phone. I'm an early riser, so I make sure to get as much work done in the morning in case we get an order later in the day."
The interviewer wants to feel confident that you will be able to keep up with the pace while baking and designing the most delicious pastries. Share two to three ways you manage your time. Here is an answer example: "I plan out my days and weeks in advance when I can, but sometimes you just have to hustle for those last minute orders! I always wear a watch and set reminders on my phone. I'm an early riser, so I make sure to get as much work done in the morning in case we get an order later in the day."21. Are you a detail-oriented person? Baking is a science. It requires precision and accuracy make those sweet treats a mouthwatering masterpiece that brings people back for more! Respond to this question by saying, "I am cautious and calculated when measuring out ingredients. I understand the importance of accuracy in baking, and I have learned about proportions and consistency." Show the interviewer you know what you're talking about! Consider giving an example of a time your attention to detail helped you, like the time you created the best beignets anyone had ever tasted! Here is an answer example: "I am cautious and calculated when measuring out ingredients. I understand the importance of accuracy in baking, and I have learned about proportions and consistency."22. What is the most difficult part of being a pastry chef? The interviewer would like to know what you find the biggest struggle in your role as a pastry chef. Be open about your greatest struggle, focusing on what you do to manage or overcome it. It's great to speak openly and honestly but be careful to not use an example that may be a red flag for the hiring manager or cause you to appear incompetent for the job. Here is an answer example: "I feel that the most difficult part about being a pastry chef is also the part that makes me most excited to come to work every day. The pressure of deadlines and thinking on my feet is the most difficult but it's nothing that I cannot handle."23. Physically speaking, this is a very demanding role. Do you have the ability to stand for long periods of time? Working as a pastry chef requires hard work, using the strength of your arms to knead dough and a steady hand to design details on pastries. All of this while standing for long hours at a time. Respond to this question by saying, "Yes! I don't mind standing. I have worked in restaurants and kitchens for the past three years, and I am used to being on my feet all day." The interviewer just needs to know that you don't mind being on your feet and that you can handle this type of work. Here is an answer example: "Yes! I don't mind standing. I have worked in restaurants and kitchens for the past three years, and I am used to being on my feet all day."24. What food safety courses or certifications do you possess? Pastry chefs are required to get their food handlers license, which is a quick training course you can take online. You can also become a Certified Executive Pastry Chef through the American Culinary Federation. Depending upon your goals and where you want to work, you may want to find out about the standards you need to meet. Before your interview, do a little research to find out more about the qualifications and any certifications they may require. Here is an answer example: 25. Are there any celebrity pastry chef's that you admire or take inspiration from? Give the hiring manager some insight into your world and talk about the greatest mentor and influencer in your life. Here is an answer example: "Julia Child always inspired me by her style and her enthusiasm for cooking. I watched her show as a child and even tried out her recipes. I always wanted to do a cooking show like her, so I figured getting more experience in the kitchen was a good place to start!"26. Give me an example of a recipe you adapted to accommodate a food allergy. Modifying a recipe can be a difficult task, especially when working with different types of flour! With all of the peanut, gluten and dairy allergies these days, don't be surprised if you encounter a situation where you have to completely modify an existing recipe. You also know that you can find alternative recipes online. There are also some tricks to balance the amount of leavening agent and flour when using gluten free flour! Give an example that shows you are experienced with modifying recipes. Here is an answer example: 27. Tell me about a time you worked with a team to achieve a goal. Every day at work as a pastry chef is an opportunity to work with your team to prepare the finest baked goods. Reflect on your experience working on a team. Try to stay relevant to the restaurant or event industries. If you have limited experience, you can use examples from when you worked on group projects in school or any extracurricular activities like band or sports teams. We recommend writing out an example to help you prepare for this question. First, think of your accomplishment. Next, write down the steps you took to get there. Here is an answer example: "For a group project in social studies, we had the goal of completing our presentation two days before it was due so that we had time to practice. I delegated the tasks to each person in the group, and we met three times a week for a month to make sure we completed everything on time. We met our goal and successfully put together an A presentation!"28. Tell me about yourself. This question haunts many individuals who may have gone just a little too in depth into their personal lives accidentally in the middle of an interview. It happens. When an interviewer asks such an open-ended question like this, it can be difficult to know where to begin. It's important to keep the information you share light and relevant. You can talk about some of your hobbies, maybe discussing a sport you enjoy to show you are a team player and like to be active. You can also share how you became interested in the career and what you enjoy about it. This is a great opportunity to describe yourself as well, talking about strengths and qualities that you bring to the table. Here is an answer example: "I am motivated and excited about this new opportunity because I have always wanted to work events. I have worked as a baker for a catering company and I enjoyed the challenge of working in a fast-paced environment."29. How would you react if a customer sent back one of your dishes? Customer service is just as important for this role as baking knowledge. You may encounter angry customers or customers who change their minds often. The only thing you can do is learn from each experience and respond graciously, even when there's nothing wrong with your creation. Check out this example:
"When I worked for an event company, we provided cupcakes and cake balls for a holiday party. When we were setting up, the client decided she wanted different colored icing on the cupcakes. I had to call my team and have them prepare dozens more at the last minute! I reassured the client we would take care of it and have it all ready just in time."
It can also be reassuring to let the interviewer know that you anticipate these kinds of problems or last minute changes. Even though you can't be prepared for every situation, in this instance, you could have pre-baked cupcakes that simply need to be frosted, just in case. Here is an answer example: "When I worked for an event company, we provided cupcakes and cake balls for a holiday party. When we were setting up, the client decided she wanted different colored icing on the cupcakes. I had to call my team and have them prepare dozens more at the last minute! I reassured the client we would take care of it and have it all ready just in time."30. Tell me about your experience in the food industry. If this is your first job as a pastry chef, talk about your experience in the field. This could be hands on experience from culinary school or baking you have done for friends and family. By sharing some of your experiences, you will demonstrate your competency as a pastry chef. You can start by talking about some of the highlights from your training, saying something like, "I loved learning about the science behind baking and how ingredients like butter hold the flavor in the recipe." Give examples of what you have learned! The interviewer wants to get to know you and what you like about baking! All you have to prove is that you have what it takes to be an expert pastry chef, even if you don't know everything just yet! Here is an answer example: "I loved learning about the science behind baking and how ingredients like butter hold the flavor in the recipe."
Writers for Pastry Chef Answers and Questions
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace.
Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career.
Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise.
Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
Elisabeth Walter has over five years of experience in the corporate recruiting world. More recently, she has been freelance writing for the past two years. You can reach out to Elisabeth by visiting her LinkedIn profile, at https://www.linkedin.com/in/elisabethwalter/
First written on: 11/20/2014 Last modified on: 08/21/2018
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