Peter's Blog
Rest in Peace, Robin Williams
Peter Reinhart

I first saw Robin Williams perform about a year before his career took off, when he was doing stand up in San Francisco, where I lived at the time. I was about 28 years old and I went to a comedy club, called The Boarding House, with a friend, having heard rumors of this hot new comic. About ten minutes into his frenetic routine my friend and I looked at each other, our mouths agape, and simultaneously said, “Unbelievable!”  It was unlike anything that anyone else was doing; spiritual, profane, gross, sublime, full of popular culture and also arcane historical references, like someone took the lid off the universal Pandoric subconscious and just let the genie out to roam at will (and this was years before he played the genie in Aladdin, which was the most perfect casting in the history of cinema). He acted out a slow motion tai chi dance in one of his routines, while spouting witty one-liners in concert with the movements, to illustrate how he could manipulate time, perhaps giving us a glimpse into how he experienced reality and how different his experience was from ours, like an athlete in the zone. “Reality, what a concept,” was a getaway line for him.

I’d long been a fan of Jonathan Winters, who was clearly one of Robin’s main inspirations, but that night was like watching Jonathan Winters on steroids to the tenth power (of course, we later learned it was probably fueled more by cocaine, but in those innocent days I’d hoped it was au naturale).

After the second time that I saw him perform I tried to send him a note, via one of the club managers, to ask if he would let me interview him. I was, at that time, a seminary student and a regular contributor to a theological magazine called Epiphany Journal and I believed that Robin Williams was operating about as close to the “Eternal Now” as was humanly possible, and I wanted to know more about his process. There was an Icarus-like quality to his ambitions and I feared that the wing-wax might soon melt but, as a performer, he flew as close to the sun as I’d ever witnessed; it was both inspiring and scary. I never got a reply to my interview request and I doubt that he ever received it, but it was as near as I ever got to him, though I followed his career earnestly till the end.

I saw him perform a few more times during that break-out year, and when I went to catch his set at a different club, about twelve months later, just as he was about launch Mork and Mindy (he’d already done a legendary HBO special, so he was no longer my/our little San Francisco discovery), he was clearly off his game. Normally, (if such a word could ever be used in association with Robin) he had a very clever way of pulling out of a bad joke sequence by stopping the show and directly addressing the audience with a straight face, declaring, “So this is what must be known as Comedy Hell.”  Then he’d go off on a comedy hell riff, invoking demons and inner voices that would magically turn things around and win back the crowd. (He also had a “Comedy Heaven” routine that he’d use when the audience was too easy on him, admonishing us by saying, “Now you’re laughing at nothing.” Brilliant!) But on this night even the Comedy Hell trick wasn’t working, so he kept sputtering, working hard to turn it around, sweating profusely, drinking lots of water, knowing that it just wasn’t happening, a little panic entering into what seemed like his coked-up bravado.  It was hard to watch but I was glad I got to see him in this situation, though disappointed that he wasn’t as mind boggling as before, because everyone knows that these are the situations that really test a comic’s mettle. It was painful but, by now he was a veteran trouper and he managed to pull out of the tailspin enough to leave us hungry for more, applauding for him wildly; an A for effort. It was on that night that I began to wonder how long he could keep going at this pace before imploding. Amazingly, it took thirty five years, though who knows how many crash and burns he went through along the way -- we do know of a few, but probably not all. Every time he got clean and sober I breathed a sigh of relief and hoped he could keep bouncing back. But his resilience, as we now know, had its limit.

There’s no way to know just how much each performance took out of him, but if any of you have ever laid it all out there (“Left it all on the field,” as they say in sports) -- and I know many of you have -- you know how it is both exhilarating and draining, how there’s always a cost. When I heard of his death I became profoundly sad and it hasn’t surprised me that so many others were equally saddened. Great artists have a way of becoming transparent to and sharing with their audiences their deep longing for something always just out reach. Robin’s performances, at least the early ones I got to witness, and also some of his best film roles, caused us to believe that, even while still out of reach, the things longed for were nearer than ever to our grasp, maybe even achievable but, oh my, at what a cost. The sadness I now feel is a kind of melancholy, putting me in touch with my own longing for what C. S. Lewis called the great “I know not what.”  When Robin performed, the “I know not what” seemed almost graspable. But, because it is, in reality (yes, what a concept), still always just out of reach, the quest for it can sometimes wear you out. I wish we had another twenty years of him, but that’s just selfish.

I’ll find my own way to stay renewed in the quest of my own longings, and wish I had been able to help him keep bouncing back. A lot of people are wishing that, even those of us who never knew him. But what a joy it was to live, if even vicariously, in the slipstream of his unbelievable energy.

 
Peter's Blog, Aug. 1, 2014
Peter Reinhart

Hi Again,

I'm about to head out with my wife SUsan for some long-awaited R&R, so will just post a quick one today and do a more substantial posting when I get back. I want to tell you then all about The Kneading Conference that I just attended in Skowhegan, Maine, a true fantasy camp for serious bread-heads, but still need to gather my photos and collect my thoughts. I learned new things about sourdough starters worth sharing, and had some pretty righteous wood-fired pizza and, of course, breads, breads, breads (including my own demo, featuring sprouted wheat flour). Still to come....

Also, wanted to suggest that you check out my friend Dede Wilson's terrific website, www.Bakepedia.com where she recently did a pizza posting featuring me, and also posted my "How to Re-Heat Cold Pizza" trick.  This should get you there but if it doesn't just go to the website and type my name in the search box: http://www.bakepedia.com/?s=peter+reinhart&submit.x=0&submit.y=0 . But there's a lot more there than pizza there -- a great resource for all aspects of baking. Enjoy!

More when II  get back....

Peter

 
Peter's Blog, July 2014
Peter Reinhart

Hi Again,

It's been awhile; crazy summer, going way too fast.  Just a few quick items for you:

--First, we'll be running Bob Radcliffe's final installment of the Rocky Ford Tomato Pie series in a few days, so please do check back. It's been a very inspirational story, full of useful tips for anyone who loves pizza and also for those of us who still have a dream or two to pursue and need to know that it's never too late.

--Also, my friend Dede Wilson, who created an amazing website called Bakepedia.com, just ran two pieces about me and pizza. Here are the links and, after you check them out you might want to check out the rest of the site and revisit it often:

http://www.bakepedia.com/peter-reinharts-neo-neopolitan-pizza-dough/

and:   http://www.bakepedia.com/tipsandtricks/reheating-pizza/

--Brad English is working on another crazy fun recipe and we should have that ready to post soon too. I don't know how he keeps coming up with these but he's a big, hungry guy who loves to feed people. Brad is the personification of what Pizza Quest is all about and his recipes are awesome!

--One final note: for any of you in the Skowhegan, Maine area, I'll be there next week from July 23-25th for the annual Kneading Conference (a fun and informative gathering for serious bread heads), followed by the Maine Bread Festival on Saturday the 26th at the Fair Grounds that is open to the public. Come over and say hi if you're there.

Thanks so much for your support and loyalty, and for continuing to visit us here. Lots more still to come....

Happy Mid-Summer!!!!

Peter

 

 

 

 
Modernist Breads, the announcement
Peter Reinhart

As promised, here is the announcement of the new book project I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, "Modernist Breads." I've copied the text below but, for photos and a link to the Modernist website, see it in full at:

http://modernistcuisine.com/2014/05/the-art-and-science-of-bread/


(The text below is copied from the link above, written by the folks at Modernist Cuisine. Enjoy! I'll keep you all posted as we get deeper into the project but my recent trip to headquarters in Bellevue, WA, working with Francisco Migoya and his baking team, was very exciting and I expect this book will be like an encyclopedia of bread when it comes out in a couple of years. Anyone who has seen "Modernist Cuisine" already knows how spectacular the photography and content was, so we have a lot to live up to.)

The Art and Science of Bread

We are frequently asked what our next big project will be, and for almost a year we’ve alluded to “having something in the works.” In actuality, our culinary team has been working overtime baking and learning about bread. From crust to crumb, we are excited to finally reveal that our next book will be entirely devoted to the art and science of bread.

Why bread? Because it’s so ubiquitous that we now have vast, daunting selections of breads to choose from at most grocery chains. Many of us have started taking the bread course for granted when dining out.  But bread shouldn’t be an afterthought on the table or simply a building block for sandwiches—breaking open a good loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, is an experience that can evoke nostalgia for years to follow. For many of us, however, baking bread at home is intimidating and shrouded in mystery. Unlike cooking, most breads are made by varying the amounts of four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and, of course, yeast. Yet the simplicity of these ingredients is complicated by the intricate science of the bread-baking process and by the fact that bakers must contend with an ingredient that is alive and sensitive to its environment.

With thousands of years of wisdom that inform techniques still used today, the art of baking bread is steeped in tradition. As such, we are researching bread’s rich past and studying the science therein. We have been fortunate to meet a number of talented bakers and chefs who are sharing their expertise and knowledge with us, and we remain on the lookout for new experts and resources.

This project comes with another exciting announcement as we welcome to our team Francisco Migoya as head chef and Peter Reinhart as assignments editor. We are incredibly lucky to have recruited two individuals whose contributions to pastry and baking have already set the bar high.

Under the leadership of head chef Migoya, our bread program has blossomed in a relatively short time. His passion has led him to push the boundaries of pastry arts in savory, pastry, viennoiserie, and bread. Chef Migoya pairs sublime flavors with Modernist techniques to create exquisite, avant-garde pastries and chocolates that are almost too stunning to eat. Having worked as executive pastry chef at The French Laundry, and most recently as a professor at The Culinary Institute of America, his work has earned him recognition as one of the top pastry chefs in the country by both the Huffington Post and Dessert Professional, and he has been imparted Medal of Master Artisan Pastry Chef by Gremi de Pastisseria de Barcelona. Chef Migoya has authored three pastry books, winning a 2014 award for The Elements of Dessert from International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

One of the leading authorities on bread, Peter Reinhart will lend his extensive expertise to this project. As a full-time chef on assignment at Johnson & Wales University, Peter teaches courses on baking and the juncture of food and culture. A best-selling author of nine books, his approachable methodologies and techniques have been embraced by home bakers and earned him numerous awards, including Book of the Year (2002) for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice from both IACP and the James Beard Foundation. Additionally, he won James Beard Foundation awards for Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads (2008) and Crust and Crumb (1997), with a nomination for Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. His newest book, Bread Revolution, will be released in the fall of 2014.

Our hope for this project is that, by revealing the history, science, and techniques of baking bread, we will create an in-depth multivolume set of books that will be useful and accessible to amateur home bakers, passionate bread enthusiasts, restaurants, and small-scale bakeries alike. But because we are in the beginning stages of this book, we do not know how many volumes it will be or when it will go on sale. There is a lot for us to decide, but we will stay true to the approaches used for Modernist Cuisine, so readers can expect the same level of rigor and detail in our writing, illustrations, and photography as we attempt to showcase bread in a new light.

If you have a burning question about this project, or would like to contribute your expertise, we would love to hear from you. Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

 

 
Peter's Blog, quick update
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

In a day or two we will be posting Part 4 of Bob Radcliffe's entertaining series on his quest for the perfect "tomato pie." We've been getting great comments on this, especially from people who have been to his Franklin Society events and have had Bob's pies and have now deified him (read the comments if you don't believe me). I can't wait to get to eastern Carolina and experience one of his Saturday night events.

In the meantime, I wanted to bring up something I've noticed in our comments sections: we're starting to get a lot of spam and phishing stuff in there so I will start going back through some of the older ones and delete them out. We've accumulated such a large archive over these past three years that most people don't go back into the older posts, but lately I've seen some legitimate questions coming through them with pizza questions, such as whether it's okay to use baking parchment in the wood-fire oven (yes, but it will burn up pretty quickly, so I advise against it), and how to add sourdough starters to traditional pizza doughs, and the like. Since I don't often get to go back through the posts that we've taken off the front page (but keep in our archives so that you can access them by using the buttons on the top of the home page), I suggest that if you have a question for me, rather than for the group or a particular author of a post, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (likewise, you can write to Brad at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or to us in general at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).  Please allow time for a reply, though, as I am on the road a lot, as is Brad, so we don't check our mailboxes everyday.  Also, for those interested in sourdough, I advise you to take a look at Richard Miscovich's new sourdough video course at www.craftsy.com and also to avail yourself of Pizza Quest contributor Teresa Greenway's website, www.northwestsourdough.com

Finally, some personal news: I should soon have a press release to share here on a new book project I'll be starting this week that will keep me quite occupied for the next 2 to 3 years. Can't say more than that until the release is approved, but be on the look out. Also, this week marks the final stage of the editorial process for my upcoming book, Bread Revolution, before it goes off to the printer in two weeks. The book will be out in October. You can read more details on Amazon and the B&N sites, as they've already started taking pre-orders. In other words, lots going on, but we promise to keep posting new things for you here too -- Brad's recipes, Bob's ongoing saga, hopefully some new posts on going pro by John Arena and other guest columnists, and my own posts about the sprouted flour movement that is chronicled in Bread Revolution (yes, you will get sneak previews right here even before it hits the stands).

So keep checking back and thank you for all your support. Our readership numbers keep going up and we love having you on the journey with us. More soon....

Peter

 
Asheville Bread Festival This Weekend
Peter Reinhart

This Saturday, April 12th, I will once again be at the annual Asheville Bread Festival (this year marks the 10th anniversary). Harry Peemoeller, Lionel Vatinet, and many other great bakers will also be teaching classes and, as usual, every bread baker within at least 100 miles will be there showcasing their beautiful products. It all takes place at the culinary center of A-B Tech, Magnolia Building and I advise you to arrive by 10 AM when the doors open because the breads (and cheeses and other crafted foods) go fast. I'll be there with some of our Johnson & Wales students, so look for us and come to my demo at 2 PM on sprouted grain flours. It will be a nice sneak preview of my upcoming book, "Bread Revolution," due out in October. Let me know if you're a PizzaQuest follower too -- it's always great to meet our fellow pizza freaks! See you there.

For more details go to:

www.ashevillebreadfestival.com/

Also, check back here in a few days for Bob Radcliffe's next installment of his relentless Tomato Pie quest. Based on the number of responses we've gotten, this story is touching a nerve. I first met Bob at the Asheville Bread Festival a few year ago, so the timing is perfect. Onward.

 

 

StartPrev12345678910NextEnd

 

Login Form

Who's Online

We have 41 guests online

Vision Statement

Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

Peter's Books

American Pie Artisan Breads Every Day Bread Baker's Apprentice Brother Juniper's Bread Book Crust and Crumb Whole Grain Breads

… and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on Amazon.com

Home Peter's Blog Peter's Blog