Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner with Peter Reinhart

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

From Left to Right: James Gaffney, myself, and Peter Reihnart. 

Recently, I was tapped for the second time to be a guest on Peter Reinhart’s seminal Podcast, Pizza Quest. I always enjoy sitting down with Peter (this time literally, as seen above) and digging into all things pizza. The interview was recorded at the 2024 Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, where I spent three days on the floor working with different consulting clients. 

Two of those clients were Cameron Martino and James Gaffney of Leaven Foods, who you might recognize from our Science of Sourdough Live Zoom webinars and YouTube recordings. Cameron had to race off to Silicon Valley to raise some more dough for his start-up earlier that morning, but James and I were able to join Peter and discuss sourdough baking and how Leaven Foods might just change it.

Peter sold the episode (and Leaven) better than I ever could: “They have been working to create a powdered wild yeast sourdough starter that can be used just like instant yeast to make sourdough breads and pizza doughs without the need of keeping a starter in your fridge. How did they do it, when will it be available, and what are the implications of this breakthrough product for all of us? Tune in and find out in this week’s episode of Pizza Quest.”     

Have a listen on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts…



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And now for a little back story…

Thanks to the overwhelming support for last week’s blog post. Some folks were happy to learn that even “pros” start at zero, so I’m going to continue down memory lane and give you a bit more insight into my journey as a professional pizza consultant, virtual pizza class coach and “private pizza chef to the stars” as some people like to call me. 

When I was first dreaming of making the perfect pie, I did what most people do: I bought a book. Luckily for me, I picked a good one: Peter Reinhart’s American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. I started baking out of it, one recipe at a time: Neapolitan, then New York, some Roman, on to Grilled, then Carta di Musica, Focaccia…even Pita. Peter’s book is still great, but the highest compliment I can give it is that it actually got me into the kitchen baking. 

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

Here is an early pizza I made in my home oven using Peter Reinhart’s New York Style Recipe. The one change I made was that I began to experiment with a technique I now call “crimping,” something I picked up after visiting the first location of Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco’s Mission District circa 2008.

Besides amazing recipes, Peter’s book also chronicles some of the best pizzerias (and pizzaiolos) from around the country. I wanted to try them all, but since I was already in NYC I started with the old school joints – Lombardi’s, Patsy’s, John’s, and Totonno’s just to name a few. And then I hit the almighty DiFara in Brooklyn.

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

My wife enjoying an early slice on 1st Ave in East Harlem out of Patsy’s woodfired oven as part of a self-curated OG pizza crawl from Peter’s book.

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

My first Margherita at Una Pizza Napoletana was an epiphany.

Peter describes in painstaking detail the San Marzano tomatoes which DiFara owner Domenico “Dom” DeMarco sourced from Campania, the “hand-shredded full-fat mozzarella from the Grande Cheese Company…mixed with ample amounts of fresh cow’s milk mozzarella di latte…generously sprinkled  with hand-grated grana padano,” and finally the hand-cut fresh basil growing in the window which Dom would cut fresh onto each pizza after it had emerged from the oven. 

I had to taste this pizza for myself. And I did!  But along the way, I also discovered some personal favorites on my own, like Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery, Roberto Caporuscio’s Kestè, and Anthony Mangieri’s Una Pizza Napoletana.

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

Proudly posing with the breads I had made that day as a student at the French Culinary Institute’s Artisan Bread Program.  We made baguettes most days two to three times per day.

Finally, after completing my studies at the French Culinary Institute (FCI) and tasting my way through New York’s five Boroughs of pizza and bread, my wife and I took off to Italy for our “pizza honeymoon,” beginning in Rome and then heading down to Naples.

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

I had eaten a lot of Pizza Bianca at Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery in New York but to finally visit Forno Campo de Fiori in Rome was beyond surreal. I was so obsessed at the time that I even booked a room at the nearby hotel with the same name, Casa Campo de Fiori, so I could grab a coffee and walk only a few steps to breathlessly watch the bakers stretch, top and bake the Pizza Bicana every morning during my stay. Great memories! 

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

My anticipation was so high that even waiting outside of L’Angica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples with the adoring crowds was almost as good as eating the pizza inside – almost.

I could go on about how much Peter Reinhart and his book influenced my early days as a home bake and aspiring professional but I think you get the point by now. It has been an honor to be asked once again to appear on Peter’s podcast alongside so many of my pizza idols that it doesn’t even feel real sometimes.  

Pizza Quest Podcast: Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza with Peter Reinhart

My contribution to Peter’s cookbook: Lox & Cream Cheese Pizza on a Chicken Schmaltz Crust…with thinly sliced Nova, whipped goat cheese, slow roasted cherry tomatoes. pickled red onions, charred shallots, capers, fresh lemon and dill. Oh, and don’t forget the “everything bagel” crust seasoning!

Finally, to make my entire journey feel even more surreal, in 2021, I was asked to contribute to Peter’s pizza book, Pizza Quest: My Never-Ending Search for the Perfect Pizza.  Peter and I decided that I should contribute a pizza which honored the tradition not only of California but, specifically, Los Angeles.

I landed on a smoked salmon sourdough pizza with “schmaltz” to honor a variety of my local pizza mentors: Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria Mozza (sourdough bread), Wolfgang Puck of Spago (smoked salmon), and my own Jewish heritage solidly based in the Coney Island and Brighton Beach neighborhoods of Brooklyn (schmaltz), all cultures and ingredients which even to this day are so much a part of the LA cultural landscape…along with a colorful collage of pretty much every country and cuisine and I can think of…assuming you are willing to get into your car and drive far enough.    

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