Last week, two catering colleges reported a rise in the number of students taking up places on pastry and baking courses, which they believe has been caused by the popularity of hit TV show The Great British Bake Off.
But while professional pastry chefs welcomed the news they warned those entering the sector that it was 'hard, demanding, professional' and a 'lifestyle choice' and not just a chance to make 'cupcakes and sticky buns'.
Now Hinks, who runs chocolatier and patisserie Cocoa Black near Edinburgh, has given her top tips for success and like those quoted in our earlier story, says the first thing is to expect to work hard.
"To those of you considering a career in chocolate and pastry, my first piece of advice is to determine your level of passion for this type of work. It is not the easiest of professions (although few are these days) and the hours can be long, particularly in the early years. If you’re unsure whether this is the career for you, or you have not had any experience upon which to base your decision, then I’d recommend that you book yourself onto a short course or seek experience in a professional pastry kitchen," she said.
Once the level of passion is determined, Hinks, who has worked in the industry for 25 years, recommends work experience alongside a 'competent pastry chef' either at a college or in a hotel or restaurant kitchen.
"It may be difficult in the beginning, but as your career progresses and you become more confident you should aim to work with and learn from the very best and be prepared to travel in order to do so.
"By following the talent, you’re doing two things - firstly you will be developing professional skills, skills which one day may allow you to take on a role as head pastry chef or to start your own business. Secondly, you’ll begin to develop a network of professional contacts who, like you, are professionally savvy and understand the importance of being surrounded by talent. Remember, you can only ever be as good as the person you’ve learned from."
Hinks, who worked with Albert Roux and held head pastry chef positions in a number of hotels before setting up her own business, believes building contacts within the industry and considering entering competitions to test skills and make wider contacts can also help future pastry chefs make it to the top of their game.
"A career as a chocolatier or pastry chef can provide exciting opportunities for those willing to learn the skills," she said. "The good jobs can be hard to come by and may involve travel, but if you have the passion, the determination and have developed the industry contacts, you’ll be half way there before you know it."
Hinks, winner of the UK Chocolate Masters 2012, will be competing for the World Chocolate Master title at the competition's final in Paris tomorrow (Tuesday).
Following a year's worth of preparation for the competition she said she was ready to represent the nation.
"Being selected to represent the UK at the World Chocolate Masters is a great honour and one which I’ll look back on with pride," she said. "The past year has been intense, but it has also been one of the most exciting and fulfilling periods of my life.
"The World Chocolate Masters is an excellent competition which offers a number of unique services to the industry. Firstly, it provides an opportunity for professional chocolatiers and pastry chefs to compete for the ultimate industry prize – being crowned World Chocolate Master.
"In creating this competition, the event organisers (Callebaut, Cacao Barry and Carma) have also established a leading trade exhibition through which industry professionals can access the latest equipment and ingredients. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the World Chocolate Masters plays an important function in inspiring the next generation of chocolatiers and pastry chefs."
Ruth Hinks' five top tips to becoming a successful pastry chef:
- Determine your passion
- Gain work experience
- Develop professional contacts
- Be prepared to travel for the right opportunity
- Consider entering competitions to test skills