Julia: You and salad have a sordid past. Tell me about your stint as a salad model for Mickey D’s?
Peter: Back in 1985, I had an opportunity to become a partner in a restaurant in Maine, but didn’t have the money to move. I saw a casting call for a chef who could cut vegetables in time to music for a television commercial. I thought, well, if anyone could do that, it would be me. So I went to the audition and found another hundred or so vying for the gig. I did not know it was for McDonald’s until I got the gig, but I figured, hey maybe McDonald’s could make up for some of the evil they were spreading by helping me get to Maine. It was a great shoot — I cut vegetables for 8 hours a day for 5 days and got paid more than enough to get me my way.
Julia: How did you become the chef at Angelica Kitchen?
Peter: I had known the Leslie, the owner, from my year driving a delivery truck for a small Brooklyn based Natural Foods Co. I used to bring Angelica Kitchen their grains, miso, beans, stuff like that. After I returned from Maine in 1990 to run the Chef’s Training Program and The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC, I got a call from Leslie. I asked if I could come down and cook for her. It went beautifully and I stayed there until 1999.
Julia: You are a master bread baker. Spending the day with you almost convinced me that I should eat more bread. Can you tell me why contrary to popular dieting trends, your bread is actually nutritious?
Peter: Natural bread baking utilizes the microbial and enzymatic action of sourdough to leaven delicious bread that your body loves. I have never found anyone who doesn’t respond positively to my bread!
Julia: You are a natural-born teacher. Have you always assumed the role of the educator?
Peter: Yes I began teaching music when I was 15 and have been involved with sharing my experience and passion for cooking and baking since my twenties.
Julia: If you could put an end to one trend or tendency in salad making, what would it be?
Peter: Greens are meant to grow and be consumed in the spring summer. They are not available the rest of the year so cooks should become more creative.