The SFCS Pastry Arts Experience
Your time here has been thoughtfully designed to maximize the investment of your money and time. It begins with our contemporary curriculum, which has been created to provide a relevant education in pastry and baking arts. You learn elements of the classic French canon, but through an eclectic and evolving lens, consistent with what’s happening across the globe right now.
You routinely network with top local chefs and food talents through in-class workshops and field trips. Choosing a concentration that supplements your training allows for an individualized career focus. Capping off your time in the kitchen classroom is Bakery Day, where you execute bakery service from top to bottom. Then, apply all you’ve learned in the real world through a managed and meaningful externship.
Choose Your Concentration
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 every day where you’ll cook and taste your way through the program.
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.
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.
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. You will begin to use more modern techniques, incorporating them into the preparation and presentation of your plated desserts. This is also the time when you will confirm your concentration. We will make sure you are well informed in order to make this decision as it will help guide your externship placement.
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 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).
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.
You will select an area of concentration based on your career goals and your externship placement will be designed to help you down that path. For many students that concentration will be a restaurant or bakery, but we understand that isn’t for everyone. We also support our students concentrating on an area of Food Media or diving into a Food Entrepreneurship project.
Before your time in the classroom ends, you will decide what your 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, cookbook writing, food styling, or food entrepreneurship. No matter what you choose you will be matched with mentors, the top in the business, to help you take what you’ve learned in the SFCS kitchen and translate these skills into 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 more about the concentrations offered.
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 and help move you forward professionally.
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
Craftsman & Wolves
Feve Artisan Chocolatier
August 2020 Full-Time Session
January 2021 Full-Time Session
January 2021 Part-Time Session
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"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