Peter’s Blog: The International Symposium on Bread, Final Post
Hi Everyone and Happy 4th of July (aka Independence Day)!!
A few days after the Johnson & Wales International Symposium on Bread, about which I posted a few weeks ago, I wrote an Op-Ed piece, comparing the Symposium’s catch phrase, “On the Rise” to the aspirational ambitions of our city of Charlotte. I thought it was pretty good, and even got some editorial help from the Johnson & Wales Communications team to polish it up, so I was a little disappointed when the paper chose not to publish it. However, not to let a good effort go to waste, I’ve decided to share it with you here as part of today’s birthday celebration of the United States. I hope you enjoy it.
Note: We’ll be back again next Tuesday, featuring a wonderful interview with pizza legend Paulie Gee, so please keep checking back. As you know, there’s always something new and exciting happening here on Pizza Quest!
JWU’s Bread Symposium Gives Rise to Charlotte By Peter Reinhart
Bread is a controversial food that many people have a love-hate relationship with due, in part, to their perceptions of its carbohydrates, or their restrictions to gluten or other wheat sensitivities. However, for two days in May, some 200 “bread- heads,” converged on Charlotte for an international symposium hosted by Johnson & Wales University (JWU). “On The Rise: The Future of Bread,” brought together an eclectic group of international bakers, historians, scholars and millers – the “All-Stars” of the bread world – to explore the craft, science, and controversy of bread.
JWU has been a part of Charlotte for 13 years (a baker’s dozen), and I believe that it is poetic and proper justice for the entire city that we called this first international symposium about bread On The Rise. Charlotte has recently been touted in national headlines as a city back on the rise. New buildings, additional hotels and apartments, financial growth, the return of major sporting events and corporations, and terrific microbreweries, all on the heels of the economic fall-out of HB-2. Our bread symposium was a small example, a metaphor if you will, of a city on the rise; but it would not have been a success without the collaborative spirit that is a hallmark of this city. Four of Charlotte’s most popular restaurants (Showmars, Stoke at Marriott City Center, Bonterra, and Nellie’s), sponsored and prepared all the breakfasts and lunches for our attendees. The Kings Kitchen & Bakery hosted a speaker’s reception, and volunteers from the Piedmont Culinary Guild and, also, the non-profit Community Culinary School of Charlotte jumped in to help with the complicated logistics, not to mention many of our JWU faculty, staff and students who gave up some of their summer vacation to lend a hand. Many of the attendees flew in and, as we were checking them into the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Charlotte, (next door to the university), I heard some of them commenting on how smooth their airport and taxi experience was. On the rise, indeed!
Bread, too, is on one of its cyclical rises, as the fear of gluten and carbs has leveled off, and folks have gotten a better handle on their legitimate food sensitivities. The bread community, both its artisan and mass-production sectors, has shifted its focus to healthier whole grain options as well as to sustainable agricultural models. As one of the symposium’s speakers, Tom Gumpel, vice president of culinary and bakery innovation at Panera Bread pointed out, his company has recently re-energized its commitment to bread as the foundation of its menu, and is soon to release a new generation of better-for-you (and more importantly, better tasting) breads. After all, he told us, “The name Panera comes from two root words, pan –Spanish for bread — and era — Latin for “the age of.”
So yes, he asserted, we believe this still is the “age of bread.” Or, as I have often been quoted as saying, “Bread has been around for over 6,000 years; it’s not going away.”
Johnson & Wales University has four campuses nationwide and, between them, has the most published and decorated bread faculty of any institution in the country, and perhaps in the world. Five of our faculty members have written admired and award-winning books on the subject, and two have represented the United States at the prestigious Coupe du Monde du Boulangerie competition, often referred to as the Bread Olympics. Currently, a Charlotte faculty member is preparing for the preliminary rounds of the next Coupe du Monde selection process. Bread is the one category in which JWU indisputably owns international education leadership and is, thus, the most appropriate home for an international bread symposium.
Because of the success of this launch event, sponsored by Puratos, an international bakery, patisserie and chocolate innovator, we are already in discussions to bring it back again and to continue hosting it here on an annual or bi-annual basis. Bread itself is a mysterious creation; both the simplest of foods – flour, water, salt, and yeast – yet, as the various speakers illustrated, also the most complex. Bread is, at its deepest level of meaning, a multi-dimensional signifier of personal and cultural transformation and, I think, it’s safe to say we can all use more of that.
Write to me at Symposium@jwu.edu and I will send you the full program, biographies, and abstracts of the 10 presentations and you will see why the subject of bread is, always, about more than just bread.
Peter Reinhart is the Chef on Assignment at Johnson & Wales University, and the Executive Director of the University’s International Symposium on Bread. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of pizzaquest.com, whose motto is “A journey of self-discovery through pizza.”
Pizza Quest Info
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.
...and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on Amazon.com