Boris Portnoy
2101 Sutter St.
San Francisco
(415) 563-5025

Biography »

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.


Boris Portnoy
WINTERLAND | San Francisco

Boris Portnoy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Winterland, San Francisco’s hyper-modern eatery. Along with Chef Vernon Morales, Portnoy pushes Bay-area diners outside their comfort zone with mind-bending desserts to complement Morales’ savory courses. He began his training in the kitchen at Deux Cheminées in Philadelphia with Chef Fritz Blanc, cooking traditional, textbook French cuisine for a year before he hooked up with Morales at Salt. Morales encouraged Portnoy to spend time in Spain, to further his understanding of the techniques and philosophies behind the country’s alta cocina, and so he worked at Restaurant Mugaritz with renowned chef Andoni Anduliz outside of San Sebastian. Upon his return to the States, he moved to New York to be the opening pastry chef at Cru led by Chef Shea Gallante. This past year, Portnoy reunited with Morales in San Francisco at Winterland, where they use the area’s incomparable local produce as the basis for cooking highly creative food that consistently tests boundaries and questions conventional cooking methods.


White Coffee Parfait, Coffee Earth, Fig Gastrique
Pastry Chef Boris Portnoy of Winterland – San Francisco, CA
Adapted by

Yield: 10 Servings


  • 500 grams cream
  • 1 gelatin leaf
  • 150 grams egg whites
  • 10 grams sugar
  • 200 grams whole dark roast coffee beans
    Coffee Earth:
  • 25 grams sugar
  • 25 grams almond flour
  • 6 grams cocoa powder
  • 5 grams ground coffee
  • 40 grams butter
  • 2 grams salt
  • 125 grams water
  • 125 grams sugar
  • 250 grams praline nuts
  • 5 grams curry
  • 5 grams salt
    Fig Gastrique:
  • 150 grams sugar
  • 100 grams glucose
  • 50 grams thin fig vinegar


For Parfait:
In a saucepot, warm cream and dissolve gelatin. Whip egg whites with sugar in a food processor until it ribbons. Temper whites with sugar and cook until it coats the back of a spoon. Strain and cool. Add coffee beans to liquid and infuse for 12 hours. Strain. Whip the product, put into pastry bag, and set into a flexi-mold and freeze.

For Coffee Earth:
Combine all ingredients in a mixer with a flat paddle attachment. Mix until completely blended and chill between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll out flat and freeze. Cut the frozen product into a shape matching the parfait mold.

For Pralines:
Melt and stir water and sugar until crystallization occurs. Add praline nuts and caramelize slowly. Add spices and cool completely. Grind praline in the coffee grinder.

For Fig Gastrique:
Reduce sugar and glucose to a dark caramel. Deglaze with fig vinegar. Cool and transfer gastrique to a plastic squeeze bottle.

To Assemble and Serve:
Set the frozen parfait onto matching coffee earth cutout and defrost in the refrigerator. Place on the plate. Dust with praline and a squeeze of fig gastrique.



   Published: October 2005