Peter Reinhart is the Chef on Assignment at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. He is also a regular guest on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins and the author of 8 award-winning cookbooks. His newest endeavor is the website (and maybe even a TV series soon) Pizza Quest, described as “a journey of self-discovery through pizza.” He sat down with WFAEats to discuss his quest.
WFAEats: What is pizza quest?
On one level, Pizza Quest is a continuation of my search for the perfect pizza, originally told in my book, American Pie, and now chronicled on our new Pizza Quest website. But, on a deeper level, Pizza Quest is really a lens through which we explore and celebrate the whole realm of artisans and artisanship, whether in food or other aspects of life.
WFAEats: What inspired you to take this quest?
The growing community of people looking for a simpler, more sustainable and meaningful way of living. I’ve met so many interesting people in my own journey that I wanted to tell their stories, using pizza as the leading metaphor but then broadening the net to bring in other like-minded, kindred spirits.
WFAEats: Where has the quest taken you so far? Future quest plans?
On our video “webisodes” we began filming in California , first in Los Angeles at the amazing Pizzeria Mozza (above) and then moving up the coast to San Francisco and a number of stops in between. Later we filmed some great footage at a mobile wood-fired oven conference in Boulder , Colorado , and have been showing those webisodes as well. Eventually, we plan to go anywhere and everywhere in the USA where we find interesting people doing interesting things, such as the great cheese regions of Wisconsin and Vermont , the pizzerias of NYC and Chicago (of course), and here in the Carolinas and neighboring states. When the time is right, we plan to head over the pond to Italy , Spain , and, well, anywhere that has something interesting going on, which is pretty much everywhere.
WFAEats: Have you found a favorite pie yet? Is that an impossible question?
The list of favorites certainly keeps growing, but my current favorites include Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, which has become the poster child of “artisan” pizzerias, Pizzeria Mozza in LA (we’re nearing the end of a seven part series of Mozza webisodes, so check out the website to see why I love these pizzas so much), Apizza Scholls in Portland, Oregon, DogTown Pizza in Floyd, Virginia (it’s new, it’s hip, and the music is as good as the pizza), and the wonderful grilled pizza at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island. But really, it’s unfair to dozens of other great places to leave them out, so we hope to showcase as many as possible on PizzaQuest.com. And, from what I hear, there are at least another twenty or thirty other great places that I haven’t even tried yet, so the journey just keeps getting better and better.
WFAEats: What’s your advice for someone who wants to make their own pizza at home?
Buy my book–it has lots of tips and recipes. Also, tune into PizzaQuest.com where you will pick up lots of new tricks. But here are the key rules: make your dough at least one day ahead; get your oven as hot as it will go and use a baking stone–the faster they bake, the better the pizzas; and use great ingredients–not too much, though–quality always trumps quantity.