Influencer Pastry

Allison Chen, the Pastry Chef Who Made It Big on TikTok: "I Earn Better on Social Media"

Sveva Valeria Castegnaro
copertina allison chen

A pastry chef turned influencer shares her career journey from the beginning to today. Social media? The quickest way to earn well outside the kitchens.

The Story

Allison Chen's journey is a sweet dream that faces harsh reality. A New Yorker in her twenties, Allison has always loved desserts so much that during her biology studies at Duke University, she decided to spend a semester in France to pursue her passion. In 2022, Allison attended École Ducasse and earned her pastry diploma.

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École Ducasse was the most modern among those I considered. My parents were paying for my college education, so I used the money they would have spent on the semester for pastry school. I learned fundamental techniques and how to make French desserts. We made chocolate, croissants, and ice cream. I went to school six hours a day, four days a week. The school was located in rural France, so it was also a nice change of pace. I feel so lucky to have had this experience; it was a turning point in my life. I finished the program in June 2022 and then did an internship at a pastry shop in Paris," Allison tells Business Insider.

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Beyond the Ducasse school, however, the real turning point in the young New Yorker's life and career was TikTok. "While I was attending pastry school, I started creating content on TikTok; I had downloaded it a month before starting the course. I had already made some TikToks, but while I was there, I filmed the chefs' demonstrations showing the desserts and recorded myself tasting them. I wanted to document my experience so that people at home could see what I was doing. Suddenly my videos started to go semi-viral, and after a month of posting, one video reached a million views...," she shares.

Despite her love for pastry, Allison was determined to finish her studies. So when she returned to the United States to earn her degree, she was immediately contacted by several companies for collaborations. "Most of the brands I work with today are in the lifestyle sector; they want me to promote their products to a college-aged audience. In the past, I've advertised for a TV show and a language learning app. I usually cook or prepare a dessert in line with the company's theme or the product I'm promoting, stating that it is an advertisement."

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While transitioning from biology to media studies, Allison Chen continued working part-time in pastry. She soon realized that her "sweet talent" wasn't as lucrative as expected. "My part-time job as a pastry cook paid about $17 an hour. I worked between 10 and 12 hours a week. When I left the job in May 2023, I had earned about $3,000 over five months, which works out to about $680 a month. This confirmed that being a pastry chef isn't a profitable career. Although I'd love to continue making desserts all day, I'm not sure I'm cut out for the workload and low pay of restaurant work. During the same period, I posted five ads for three different companies on TikTok and earned $23,600, over $20,000 more than what I earned in the kitchen."

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Today, Allison has a substantial following, with 350,000 followers on TikTok, about 260,000 on Instagram, and 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. Recently graduated, Chen remains grounded despite her earnings from content creation. "Content creation has provided me with an extra source of income; I don't have to worry much about my future paycheck. Unfortunately, it's hard being 'just' a good pastry chef, it requires a lot of work and isn't always compensated properly. However, content creation is essentially freelance work, and the income isn't constant, which can be stressful. I earn from creating content and hope to turn it into a full-time job one day, but for now, I want to find another job. I'm thinking of applying for an internship in marketing and trying something different before returning to pastry when I start missing making desserts. When I find a full-time job, whether in marketing, pastry, or something else, I can be more flexible about salary because I'll have another source of income. I hope one day to be a pastry chef without worrying about low salaries."

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