Thursday, May 29, 2014

Next up for Peter Reinhart: Helping with the next Modernist project

When visionary scientist and cooking nut Nathan Myhrvold came out with "Modernist Cuisine" in 2011, it shook the food-book world, and not just for the massive size and price ($468, five volumes, more than 2,000 pages). Myhrvold used meticulous science and innovative photography to show exactly what happens when you cook.

Next up: Myhrvold has pulled together a dream team of baking experts in Seattle to do the same thing with bread. And the show runner is Charlotte's Peter Reinhart.

"The role they've created for me is assignments editor," Reinhart told me last week after he returned from a planning trip in Seattle. "I'm kind of like the link between the baking team and the research team. Part of my work is to bring in different experts.

"In the end, it will kind of be like an encyclopedia of bread, past, present and future."

Reinhart, of course, is the faculty member at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte who has won four James Beard awards for his books "Crust and Crumb," "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Baking" and "Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday."

The bread project will be extensive, he says. It will take at least two years, with a target date for publication in late 2016. "We might just make it," Reinhart joked. "Every day, they're going deeper into the craft of baking, the science of baking."

The project will focus tightly on bread, not baked goods. It will probably include brioche, he said, but not scones, biscuits or muffins.

The photography will be just as innovative as "Modernist Cuisine," which is famous for techniques like cutting a wok in half to show what happens during a stir fry.

"One of the cool things about being in the lab is seeing how they do the pictures," Reinhart says. "It will be visually stunning."

So how did Reinhart end up working with Myhrvold? It was a dream come true, Reinhart says. Dream time, he says: When the original "Modernist" came out, he was so impressed, he thought, "Gee, I hope he does one someday on bread and I hope he calls me. And then he called me. He likes how I explain things to the layman, and he wants the book to be understandable for everybody, not just professional bakers."

And don't worry, Reinhart isn't leaving Charlotte -- or Johnson & Wales. His title with the university is "chef on assignment," which means he's supposed to go out and spread JWU expertise. This comes with the territory, he says.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s never happened -- this kind of project doesn’t come along every day. I’m just honored to be a part of it.”