Pastry & Baking Arts

Made in San Francisco

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Over 700 Hours of Hands-On Learning

Hands-on learning is the best way for you to develop culinary intuition. Through the program, you will gain:

• An intuitive sense of taste and seasoning,
• A working knowledge of ingredients,
• Professional work habits that are second to none.

The vast majority of your 730 hours will take place in a kitchen. Intuition comes from repetition and you don’t get hands-on learning sitting in the lecture halls and demonstration classrooms found at most schools. At SFCS the kitchen is your classroom everyday where you’ll cook and taste your way through the program.

SFCS is not a cookie-cutter program. Whether you’re interested in a restaurant career or an alternate food-career path such as private chef, food media, or food entrepreneurship, you’ll find that we’ve designed our program to strike an important balance between preparing you for success in the kitchen and exposing you to many different facets and career opportunities available in the world of food today.


Nicole Plue

Nicole Plue

Director of Pastry Arts,
Full-Time Program Instructor

After winning the 2010 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, food critic Michael Bauer suggested Nicole was “one of the best pastry chefs in the country.” Now, as SFCS’s founding educator in Pastry Arts, Nicole has firmly established herself as one of the best pastry instructors in the country.

Robin Rodriguez

Chef Instructor,
Part-Time Program Instructor

A part-time Pastry program graduate, Robin Rodriguez is a seasoned professional with over 22 years of experience in bakeries, restaurants, and high-end catering. Teaching is a life-long passion for Robin and she is dedicated to sharing her skills with students so they can confidently pursue their own career paths.

The SFCS Pastry Arts Experience

Every moment of your pastry school experience at SFCS has been thoughtfully designed to maximize the investment of your money and time. It begins with our contemporary curriculum which has been tooled to provide a relevant education in baking and pastry arts. You will learn elements of the classic French canon, but through an eclectic and evolving lens relevant to what’s happening in restaurants and bakeries right now across the globe.

Our academic curriculum, however, is only a portion of your culinary school experience. You will routinely network with top local chefs and food talents through in-class workshops and field trips. You will choose elective courses to supplement your training in areas that interest you. You will execute your own bakery service top to bottom. And you will be thrown into the fire of a restaurant kitchen or bakery during your externship.

Our curriculum is contemporary, relevant, and designed to build an intuitive sense for cooking that will prepare you for the challenge of cooking professionally.


In these first modules of your program you will be building strong technical foundations as well as knowledge of key ingredients. Every day is hands-on in the kitchen, starting with an introduction to techniques and working towards a mastery of Eggs, Cakes, and Pastry Doughs. Repetition is critical in these first weeks. The goal here is to help you create a battery of innate skills, values, and a taste memory that becomes second nature to you in the kitchen.


The next set of modules in the Program applies the foundations you’ve mastered and builds on them with new knowledge. Chocolate, Confections, and Frozen Desserts are the focus as you create more complex desserts that integrate these elements. While building on the fundamentals you’ve already learned, you will compose finished restaurant-quality plated desserts, learning more about plating, execution, and balance. Expect many of your skills to become habitual during this unit.

Extending Your Learning

With a strong core of pastry knowledge, you’re now ready to explore new techniques in the world of baking. You’ll work with dough, both sweet and savory, learning about Yeasted Breads, Laminated Doughs, Breakfast Pastries, and Quick Breads. This base knowledge of the baking kitchen is critical to any well-rounded pastry cook. This is also time when you begin to use more modern techniques, incorporating them into the preparation and presentation of your plated desserts.

As part of your pastry school experience at SFCS you can look forward to real-world industry exposure in America’s food capital. San Francisco is a city with a tight-knit food community committed to training the next generation of chefs, artisans, food entrepreneurs and other aspiring culinary professionals just like you. Your foundational education is routinely supplemented with local industry contacts and resources available to you in a variety of different ways.

Field Trips

Field trips take you out of the classroom to get you up close and personal with some of the most notable members of the Bay Area food community. Whether it’s a bean-to-bar tasting at Dandelion Chocolate, a behind the scenes tour of Craftsman and Wolves lead by chef/owner William Werner, or baguette making with master baker Nicky Guisto at Central Milling, these hands-on experiences will extend your learning outside the kitchen and into the classroom that is San Francisco, and beyond.

In-Class Workshops by Guest Instructors

Supplementing your outstanding chef instructors are hands-on workshops with a variety of local guest chefs. Focusing on a specific areas of baking and pastry, guest instructors will introduce you to new techniques and ingredients while also sharing stories about their own careers. They all leave you with their email addresses so when you find chefs who you really connect with, you can keep the dialogue going outside the classroom. Recent guest instructors include Donald Wressell (Guittard Chocolates), Shawn Gawle (Quince) and Michelle Polzine (20th Century Cafe).

Free Electives

You are given 30 elective hours to curate an additional module of your curriculum to ensure you get the education most relevant to your personal career goals. As you choose from classes that range from wine to food writing to fish & shellfish, you will encounter domain experts and diversify your exposure to working food professionals. Interested in teaching cooking one day? You can also use your electives to be a Teaching Assistant in our recreational program. Working side by side with some of the best cooking teachers and chefs in the area, you’ll gain experience as a teacher while networking with even more local talent.


With 50% more restaurants per household than New York, the culinary epicenter of San Francisco is home to an abundance of growing regions, food artisans and award-winning chefs. Food events and activities are being held constantly and the talents who participate in these events are always on the lookout for culinary student volunteers. If it means hands-on food experience or networking with great chefs, we will pass these opportunities on to you.

As a pastry school student, there’s no better place to broaden your exposure, make great connections and plant the seeds of your new food career than San Francisco.

The last unit before your final exam is Bakery Day. This project will really let you prove to yourself how far you’ve come in the kitchen. It’s the true test of whether you possess the skills and work habits to be successful in a commercial kitchen and, therefore, is the ideal bridge between your time in the classroom and your externship. As a class, you’ll design a menu of plated desserts, savory bites, and baked goods. You’ll spend the week testing out each recipe until it’s perfect and that work culminates in you transforming the pastry kitchen into a bake shop for a day. Your friends, family, and SFCS VIPs will join you to taste the fruits of your labor and see your gorgeous work.

Watch this video to get a sense of what you can expect during Bakery Week.


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SFCS will place you in a meaningful externship that maps to your personal career goals. Be it a restaurant, bakery, or even a test kitchen, this part of your program will give you practical experience in the industry that will round out your education.

Before your time in the classroom ends, you will decide what your externship concentration will be.  You can focus on the restaurant or bakery path, spending your externship in a top Bay Area kitchen. You also have the opportunity to choose another path in the world of food, such as recipe development.  No matter where you go, you will be placed in a well-managed environment where you will take the core skills and professional work habits you have learned in the SFCS kitchen and apply them in the real world.

This aspect of your education is something we take very seriously, and prior to your externship starting, we will make sure you get an opportunity to learn a bit more about the concentration you select, via in-class speakers, field trips, and other core classes.

Our externship is very unique because we work closely with each partner to make sure that your experience is designed to expose you to many aspects of the field you choose.

While SFCS will ultimately decide where to place you for your externship, the placement will be driven by your individual career interests and goals as well as your performance in the classroom.

The following are some examples of recent SFCS externship partners:

20th Century Cafe
Little Bee Baking
State Bird Provisions

Chez Panisse
Della Fattoria
Michael Mina

Craftsman & Wolves
Feve Artisan Chocolatier
Neighbor Bakehouse
The Progress

Upcoming Sessions

August 2019 Full-Time Session

Begins August 26, 2019
Ends February 28, 2020
Monday-Friday, 8am-2pm

January 2020 Full-Time Session

Begins January 6, 2020
Ends June 26, 2020
Monday-Friday, 8am-2pm

January 2020 Part-Time Session

Begins January 8, 2020
Ends December 18, 2020
Wed & Thurs, 6pm-10pm
Saturdays, 8am-2pm

Now Accepting Applications

Enrollment is Open for Full-Time and Part-Time Certificate Programs.
Fill out the form to request admissions information.

"Our extern is excellent. Above average preparedness. She is always ready to jump into new projects, and is ready and available to engage in all levels of work in our kitchen."

Laurie Ellen Lead Baker, Tartine Bakery

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