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Peter Reinhart, chef/author/community activist 

Peter Reinhart has a history in food that goes back more than 35 years and has left his mark on the culinary scene in America from coast to coast. In 1971, straight out of college, Reinhart joined up with a group of people starting a small, "hippie, alternative" restaurant in Boston that focused on organic foods. These days he works as the "chef on assignment" at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, where he teaches and writes about food.

Creative Loafing: What made you want to start teaching?

Peter Reinhart: I ran a thrift store in Chicago and was a house parent for juvenile delinquents in Raleigh. We started Brother Juniper's [a bakery in California], as a community outreach program. It took off and became so big that eventually it was so consuming as a business that it would take me away from what I really wanted to do which was work with people. After I wrote my first two books we sold the bakery and ... I began teaching at the California Culinary Academy.

How important is eating organic foods?

My roots in organics goes back way before that started to become a big thing. Even though now I am no longer a vegetarian, my heart is in that whole counter-culture approach that has now become the green movement. What we were on in 1971 with our restaurant, Root One, was sort of the cusp of the green movement.

Do you still work with Transmission of Knowledge, the mentoring service you launched in 1999?

With all the teaching and writing I do, I had to stop taking on actual clients. But what I try to do is use my training as a life coach every day in the classroom. In addition to that, I mentor a number of students here at JWU that are interested in food writing. This is for students who show a special talent in writing and are ambitious to do so, and other teachers may notice that and send them to me. We've now managed to get about two-dozen students published and a few in some good jobs at respected publications.

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