Peter began by asking me a few questions about pizza. After spending a few minutes with him on the phone, I realized I was speaking to someone whose knowledge and love of pizza were extraordinary.
At one point, Peter said to me, “I’m writing the book that you should have written about pizza, Albert.”
Unfortunately, my interview never made it into the book, but Peter did mention me and my website pizzatherapy.com. You know, I still get emails from people who have discovered that pizzatherapy.com will teach you to make pizza and dough, through his book. Peter was very easy to talk to. He shared lots of his knowledge and thoughts about making pizza as well as his favorite Pizzerias and what he thinks is the future of pizza.
Peter Reinhart Interview
Albert: Peter, how are you doing?
Peter: I’m good. How are you?
Albert: Great, I’m doing fine, thanks. To me, you are one of the legends of pizza. You are. You have the spirit of pizza inside of you. Your book American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, was pretty phenomenal.
Peter: Thank you.
Albert: You’re pretty famous about bread baking, right? Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started?
Peter: Well, I started by doing it because I just enjoyed doing it. I was cooking, and actually cooking in a seminary in San Francisco, which is, of course, noted for having good bread. I just started doing it because I thought it would be kind of neat to put home baked bread on the table.
I found out unexpectedly that I kind of had a feeling for it. It got into me. It got into my system and I really took it on. For about eight or nine years, I baked just for fun and entered some of my breads in County Harvest Fairs and things like that and started winning.
I ended up having to really immerse myself into the study of bread. One thing led to another and our bakery grew. Eventually, it got to where it was too big. It was beyond our interest in terms of running. It was taking me away from what I really loved to do, which was work with people.
Peter: So, we sold the bakery. I started writing books about it and went into teaching. That kind of got me back in touch with where I really wanted to be.
Peter: The first book was called Brother Juniper's Bread Book
The name of our bakery was Brother Juniper’s Bakery. That book was what really what started this whole kind of chain of events. It came out in 1991, so it’s almost fifteen years now since it’s been out.
It led to a second book which was recipes from our restaurant. It was called Sacramental Magic In A Small-town Cafe: Recipes And Stories From Brother Juniper's Cafe
The message of the book was the idea that every meal and every time we partake of food, that meal has the potential to be a sacramental quality about it. It could almost be like a replication of the Last Supper if you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. This is the lesson that I learned in having this restaurant. We were feeding not only people’s body’s but feeding their hearts and souls. That is what that book was about. It was built around the recipes.
I continued to write. As I got deeper into my study of bread and started teaching it, I was able to put together a book called…I did two serious bread books. One was called Crust and Crumb which won a James Beard Award. That led to The The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
which won the James Beard Book of the Year as well as the IACP Book of the Year. That was sort of the pinnacle of all this writing that each time I got better at it. We came up with a book that really gave the readers a systematic understanding of how they could make bread at home in the style of artisan bakers.
Albert: I will tell you that The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
is the bible of making bread as far as I’m concerned. It is a phenomenal piece of work. I’m very, very impressed with that.
You touched on something really special to my heart, Peter. I want to talk a little bit about spiritual pizza and that is what you were talking about in making the bread where you kind of put your heart and soul into what you’re making. It comes through in the finished product. So, it’s more than just throwing ingredients together. Correct?
Peter: Yeah, of course, in the journey that I went on and searching for pizza, that really came out when we started to separate the good pizza from the great pizza. By great, I mean memorable pizza.
I realized when I first started writing the book. I was sort of looking for recipes and tricks of the pizza makers. Then we realized that the real trick as Chris Bianco said was that he is the secret ingredient.
From Legends of Pizza, Volume 1
You can find the rest of this intierview, as an ebook, here:
Legends of Pizza, Volume 1 and 2 e-Book
pizza on earth and all over Peter Reinhart's kitchen,
Pizza Therapy is pizza
P.S. Here is my favorite bread book of all time: