The number of people becoming patissiers is growing as media coverage and the growing number of international awards gives the profession a glamorous image.

The patissier boom began about 10 years ago.

“Since the latter half of the 1990s, the French word ‘patissier’ has been used for Western-style confectioners and they have made a fashionable impression,” said an official at the Federation of Japan Confectionery Associations.

The interest in patissiers has expanded as the number of young confectioners returning from Europe with awards from international competitions has grown and the media has started applying the moniker “charismatic patissier” to some of them.

“Women’s magazines have taken up the subject of patissiers and this has largely contributed to their popularity,” the federation official said.

The interest in the people behind the pastries is paying off in other ways.

“We can now attract customers with the names of patissier.” said an official at Namco Ltd., which has cake theme parks.

Many young people dream about becoming a patissier.

The number of applications for Ecole de Patisserie de Tokio, which has been open in Tokyo for 53 years, has exceeded the 200 open spots annually in recent years.

“The number of people wishing to enter here sharply increased in 2001 when a TV drama set in a cake shop was broadcast,” a school official said.

The number of high schools offering patisserie courses is also on the rise. Kagoshima Josai High School in Hioki, Kagoshima Prefecture, started a patisserie course in April because of strong student demand. There were 148 applicants for 40 spots.

Toyohito Yanagimura, who teaches the course at Kagoshima Josai, said it is important to learn confectionery techniques early in life.

“In Europe, the birthplace of confectionery making, people start to study it when they are young. Studying new techniques and acquiring experience early on is important,” Yanagimura said. “Young people can also nurture their sensitivity,” which he deems necessary to becoming a good patissier.

While people think of the confectionery industry as glamorous, the work is hard. It typically takes four to five years to become a full patissier and the work is physically demanding. Patissiers stand all day and their creations do not last long.

“Confectionery are perishable and cannot be kept for long,” said one patissier. “There is also a limit to mechanization. It’s not unusual to have to work past midnight.”

“There are many people who join the industry, but there are also many who quit the industry,” an industry source said.

Despite the drawbacks, the profession remains a popular career.

“In addition to the flamboyance of the industry, cake-making is a job for self-expression. The yearning among young people is strong, and the boom is expected to continue for a while,” said an official in charge of entrance exams at a vocational school for confectioners.

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