Dream Jobs: My Journey to Becoming a Pastry Chef in Paris

Dream Jobs: My Journey to Becoming a Pastry Chef in Paris

pastry schools in paris
Cordon Bleu School in Paris © Molly Wilkinson (second from right)

Growing up, the Cordon Bleu was the holy grail of cooking schools. It was the school that had been around for more than 120 years, the school where my hero, Julia Child, had gone before changing the face of American cooking in the 1950s. I thought of it in awe – the French chefs barking out orders, the smell of butter, and pans flying about. It was always stuck in the back of my mind as a dream of mine; though I never thought it was achievable. I didn’t know anyone in the culinary field, and it was far more normal for me to follow the standard path of going to college, graduating, and getting a good nine to five job.

pastry school paris english
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In college, while pursuing my marketing degree, I had my first taste of French cuisine during a four-week study abroad trip to Paris and Madrid. I remember visiting the boulangerie on our last day in Paris and purchasing as many pastries and croissants as I could carry for the train ride to Madrid. After just two short weeks, I’d fallen in love with France. Not the beret-wearing, Brittany striped shirt love, but a deep appreciation for a culture that was so centered on food, a beautiful language, and a country steeped in history and art.

Over the next six years, I slowly started my return to Paris, bringing desserts on an often daily basis to my marketing job and researching cooking schools in my free time. My passion for baking, which started from when I was two years old, watching Mom bake chocolate chip cookies, to summer holidays spent memorizing recipes, was coming back in full swing.

There was a moment when I thought: I’m good at marketing, and I could be successful in my marketing career, but if I want to pursue my passion and make a massive change in my life, now is the time to do it.

pastry school paris english
Photo courtesy of author

Over pieces of apple tart and multiple batches of cookies, I scoured through websites researching the best cooking schools, starting with those in the US; but several variables swayed me to look further. I had already gone to college, so a two-year program at the premier CIA or Johnston & Wales was just too long for me to consider.

In terms of cost, I found that I could live in Paris and attend a school there for the price of just attending a school in the US! The last reason – and a huge one at that – was to study in France, where pastry had its roots! I quickly narrowed down my choices in France after comparing the teaching language, length of the program, cost, the availability of an internship and housing, and several other factors.

Pastry Schools in Paris

For foreigners looking for a serious professional cooking school in English, the options for French cooking schools came to just three for me:

Le Cordon Bleu Parispastry schools in Paris

Widely known around the world, with a 9-month long program and 3-month internship. The demonstrations are taught in French with an English translator. The practical portion in the kitchen is only in French. The course is 50% demonstration and 50% kitchen time. Following the program, you are a certified chef.

Ferrandi Paris

paris pastry schools englishWell known in France/Paris, but not as much internationally. A 5-month long program that touts 70% kitchen time and 30% demonstration. This is followed by a 3 to 6-month internship. Taught in English and certification is received at the end!

Ecole Nationalé Superieure de Patisserie (ENSP)pastry schools in Paris

Located in a tiny, South-Central town in France, in the shadow of a Chateau. The international French pastry program is 5 months long with a 2-month mandatory internship anywhere in the country. Classes are in English, including 530 hours in the kitchen (comparable to Ferrandi and Le Cordon Bleu) and 80 hours of French language courses. Certificate received as well!

In the end, the choice to go to the Cordon Bleu was rather simple. It just felt right after all the research I’d done. The program was a good length, the chefs incredibly talented, the location was perfect, and the name would hopefully make it easier for me to get a job after graduating.

The application process was just like applying for college — with a couple of documents to fill out, some papers to send in, and an essay to write. No kitchen experience was needed; but I did attend a cooking program at a local school for a semester just to make sure it was the right move for me. There was a little bit of a wait, and then a fancy letter addressed to Mademoiselle Molly Wilkinson arrived in the mail! Handwritten on fancy paper. I totally saved it.

pastry schools in Paris The first day of school was nerve wracking. I’d saved up for a year to attend the program and it was a huge life move for me. My class of 70 was very diverse, with people coming from all over the world to attend the program. The group was divided into two groups for the demonstrations and then teams of 10 for the practicals, where we were in the kitchens baking up what the chefs had just taught. The schedule was a bit odd, as it was never the same from one day to the next.

The chef’s personalities were as big and chef-like as you’d imagine. Since the course wasn’t intensive, I had time to explore Paris as well and do some research—a.k.a. eating as many pastries as possible. By the end of the program, I was so pleased with my decision. I’d made lifelong friends and lost all fear of trying a new recipe or doing something complicated in the kitchen. I was ready to continue to learn more and progress in my newly-chosen field.

After completing a two-month internship at a fabulous pâtisserie run by two women chefs in the République area, and with my impending visa end date nearing, I had to return to the US. Back in Texas I worked for an amazing French pastry shop from it’s start. There, I manned the macaron station for four months and rotated through the other stations, learning several new techniques and putting my new skills to work!

pastry schools in paris
Photo courtesy of author

However, the entire time I was home, France kept calling. I started taking French classes and bought a plane ticket to, of all things, help open a Mexican restaurant in Paris. then I travelled to the South of France to make pastries at a Chateau for two months. Now, I’m back in Paris working at La Cuisine, a cooking school specializing in short courses on French cuisine and pastry all taught in English!

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’m so excited to discover it! Keep an eye out for more of my posts on, but of course, all things food — like what makes a good apéro, finding American baking ingredients in France, new pastry spots that have opened up, and more! I’ll probably do a bit on daily life too, like what it’s like dating a Frenchman. Stay tuned!


Ever attracted to all things sweet, Molly left her marketing career in Texas to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 2013. She worked for several pastry shops in Texas including Bisous Bisous Patisserie, voted best bakery in Dallas in 2015, before returning to France. Since then she has helped open a Mexican restaurant (her other love) and been a pastry chef at Chateau de Gudanes. Currently she is in Paris working at a culinary school and eating as many pastries as humanly possible. All in the name of research of course! You can follow her musings on daily life in Paris and catch a recipe or two at her blog: www.ToffeeBitsandChocolateChips.com


  1. […] Join Cordon Bleu-trained American pastry chef MollyJWilk in her charming kitchen in Versailles, from the comfort of your own kitchen, and learn the French method to bake a “No Fear Pie Crust” for your favorite pie filling! Virtual classes (via Zoom) on November 19th and 24th are perfectly timed for pre-Thanksgiving preparations. We guarantee she’ll make it fun and easy for you! Read about Molly’s journey to becoming a French pastry chef here. […]

  2. Hey hie , actually i am looking for gastronomicom school france which is in adge south france .. for 7 month pastry program so how good and worth is doing course from there ??

  3. Hello thanks for your nice story…hope your passion gives you a lot of succesful and happy moments.
    I would like to ask you after your experiences in Paris ..Could you recommened a high level pastry school for a proffesional pastry seminar like 2-5 days taught in english?…
    I am looking for Le Notre or Ritz Escoffier???Addiotionally I would like to ask you wether you know places where you can practically work for a short time in Paris.
    Thanks a lot for your time and enjoy your pastry journeys!,,,,

    • Hi there,
      I would say, yes Le Notre or Ritz Escoffier. The Cordon Bleu offers short courses as well, and you might be interested in Alain Ducasse – I took a class there and was really impressed.

      I don’t know of any particular places where you can work for a short time. Internships are always linked to a school program- as legally, that’s how it’s done! I do know someone who worked at a bakery in Normandy through the program WWOOF. It’s an organization where you help/work and they provide you a place to stay and meals in exchange. Could be something to look at!

      Best of luck,

  4. First of all. How in the hell did you afford this? So expensive! Also did you have a job while you were at school to help make some money so you could pay for things like food.

    • Hey Samara,

      Careful planning 🙂 I saved up for several years before I took the leap to go to the Cordon Bleu and was also working remotely for a company in the US while I was in school. ps- On a student visa you can work part-time.


  5. Hi Molly
    I loved your article, it is just what I need to read!
    I just have one question.
    In terms of visa, how did you manage to go back to france and now live in Paris?
    I have already done my cooking diploma in france and i would love to go back but i cant seem to find a way around this! :(.. seems that every job position available i find says “must have EU passport”
    Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Ivana!
      Now that’s always the BIG question! There are a couple of ways to do it but what I ended up doing coming back to France for 3 months (the max you can come without a visa). Found a company that wanted to hire me (this was a daily search!!). And then went back to Texas and applied for the Jeune Professionelle Visa. I wrote a whole article about it on my blog: http://www.toffeebitsandchocolatechips.com . The major plus with this visa is that the company that hires you doesn’t have to pay outrageous taxes- instead of thousands of euros to sponsor you, they end up paying less than 100€ per year. Why? Because it’s a temporary work visa that is only valid for a year, and then renewable 6 months after that. There’s a whole bunch of other pluses too but that would end up being a mega-long comment if I posted them all. After that you have to apply for another visa- but it does give you time to make contacts and think about next steps. Hope this helps!

  6. Hi Molly,
    I simply loved reading this article. Inspiring indeed.
    I am doing my pastry diploma at Le Cordon Bleu Paris presently. Can you suggest what place should I do a part time as I don’t really know french but I would love to get experience at a patisserie before I am done with the course.
    Kind regards,
    Parul Bhardwaj

    • Hi Parul
      I am planning to do pastry diploma at Le Cordon Bleu Paris this June.
      How is the course going?
      How are the teachers and working environment?
      I am very confused and have a lot of questions – Can I email you?


    • Hi Parul!

      Congratulations with going through the pastry diploma course! What I would suggest is going around and asking at different places. You’ll probably have the most success at American-British-Australian cafes/bakeries in terms of language. Try to build a relationship with the team by going in frequently and then take your chances and ask- with a student visa, you’re allowed to work part-time or 20 hours per week so there’s nothing holding you back. Best of luck!

  7. aweeeee ! this was such a nice read 🙂 to see it all developing – it’s wonderful i tell ya! you’ve made leaps and bounds, and you are only getting started 😀 can’t wait to hear more of your progress and about all those glorious pastry shop hunts 😀

  8. Molly! You are famous :)! This is Chris Digby…we met at Eglise de la Trinite working in the soup kitchen. I loved reading this, you have accomplished so much already! Loved reading this article…congratulations on being published in Inspirelle.


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