Professional Pastry Arts Education
and San Francisco Food Experience
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, world renowned bread bakers, and award-winning pastry chefs. As a professional pastry student, there's no better place to plant the seeds of your new food career than San Francisco.
Our Pastry Arts Certificate Program is designed to balance academic fundamentals with relevant industry exposure. You will simultaneously dive into a rigorous in-class curriculum while being instantly immersed into the baking and pastry side of San Francisco's food community. The balance between technique and art is a fine one in the world of pastry and at SFCS you'll see your skills grow strong in both areas. With an emphasis on how and why things happen, we're not looking to graduate recipe dependent students. You'll have a firm grip on the science behind the recipes, building a confident level of intuition that you'll take with you no matter what career you choose to pursue.
FIRST PERSON: Culinary Student Stephanie Hua shares her SFCS experience with KQED.
Meet Your Instructor
Director of Pastry Arts
After winning the 2010 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Michael Bauer suggested Nicole Plue was “one of the best pastry chefs in the country.” Now, Plue is on her way to becoming one of the best pastry instructors in the country.
Los Angeles native Nicole Plue began her restaurant career in San Francisco where she led the celebrated bread program at Hawthorne Lane before jumping coasts to New York when Danny Meyer recruited her to be the pastry chef on the opening team at Eleven Madison Park. While on the East Coast, Plue also opened Terence Conran’s Guastavino’s and was tapped by Martha Stewart to develop recipes for the pastry and baking segments for Martha Stewart Living Television. Plue then went on to manage the pastry programs at the three-starred AZ restaurant and its sister restaurant Pazo where her Red Wine Tart was named by William Grimes the “Best Dessert of 2004” in Bon Appetit.
Plue returned to California to serve as executive pastry chef at Julia’s Kitchen at COPIA in Napa, and then held the same position at Richard Reddington’s Redd and Cyrus in Healdsburg.
In addition to her James Beard Award, Plue’s accolades include being named Pastry Chef of the Year 1997 by San Francisco Magazine and Rising Star Chef by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Introducing a Contemporary Curriculum for Relevant Pastry Education.
Hands-on learning is the best way for you to develop intuition in the pastry kitchen. Through the curriculum, you will gain (1) an intuitive sense of baking and pastry techniques, (2) a working knowledge of ingredients, (3) and professional work habits that are second to none. The program has been designed with SFCS Dean, Bill Corbett, and SFCS Advisor, Lincoln Carson, two of the City's most lauded pastry chefs, ensuring each and every lesson is relevant to how pastry cooks are working in the business today.
We don't have lecture halls and demonstration classrooms, so access to a kitchen isn't something that is rationed during your tenure as a student. The kitchen is your classroom everyday. Each week your end goal is to create a different plated dessert, each one consisting of many elements that draw on the knowledge you've gained to date. Desserts will grow more complex as you progress through the class, each one a lesson in technique, plating and flavor.
You'll cook and taste your way through the following modules:
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 dishes, learning more about plating, execution, and balance. Expect many of your skills to become second-nature 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.
The classroom culmination of this unit is Bakery Week. This week will really let you prove to yourself how far you’ve come in the kitchen. It is the ideal bridge between your time in the kitchen classroom and your externship.
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 pastry chefs, artisans, food entrepreneurs and other aspiring pastry 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.
Some of the best culinary resources in the Bay Area have been tapped to weave a healthy rotation of guest instructors into the SFCS curriculum. From local bread bakers, pastry chefs, cookbook writers and food truck owners, some will visit you in the classroom and others you will visit on-site through a field-trip.
SFCS is not a cookie-cutter program. 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. Choose from classes that range from wine to butchery to cheese making.
Volunteering is a great way to build your personal contacts and gives you a breadth of exposure to many culinary career paths. Since 10% of the jobs in San Francisco are food-related (more than any other city), you can be sure the School will usually have more volunteer opportunities available than you can handle.
Your final module is your externship where you extend your classroom learning by taking your skills into a professional restaurant kitchen or bakery. SFCS has secured externship placements with some of the top kitchens and bakeries in the City, so the only thing left for you to do is shine!