Interview with Chef Boris Portnoy of WinterLand - San Francisco
Antoinette Bruno: How did you get into pastry? What or who inspired you to become a pastry chef?
Boris Portnoy: Ever since I was little I wanted to be a chef. I was cooking savory food and decided to learn pastry technique.
AB: How did your experience at Deux Cheminées in Philadelphia shape your pastry style and technique?
BP: Fritz Blank, a chef and a former microbiologist, was the first person to expose me to the chemistry of food. He had a knack for making me question everything about food.
AB: What pastry chefs do you most admire?
BP: Sam Mason for his esthetic value and Will Goldfarb for his textures. I admire Jodi Roca for his innovative quest and Andoni Luiz Anduriz for his seamless blend of modernism and devotion to tradition.
AB: What is your philosophy on pastry?
BP: Use ingredients with a common denominator.
AB: Where do you look for inspiration?
BP: Sometimes it’s an ingredient or a concept that I fumble around with and it turns into a composition. Other times it’s bouncing ideas around with Vernon. Just talking out loud helps a lot.
AB: What pastry or kitchen tool can’t you live without?
BP: A digital thermometer and a scale.
AB: What are your favorite ingredients to work with?
BP: Astringents like tea, coffee or chicory.
AB: Is there a baking and pastry technique that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
BP: I’ve been playing with extracting and implementing fruit and vegetable waters by sous vide cooking.
AB: What advice would you give to aspiring young pastry chefs?
BP: Work at a restaurant with a positive learning curve. Expose yourself and stage on your days off.
AB: What are your top three tips for pastry success?
BP: Ask questions and don’t assume anything. Work for experience. Have a good work ethic.
AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
BP: Having an intimate, sexy neighborhood place with an ingredient-driven menu.