This may come as a surprise to you but I once overheard a person in the Georgia Straight office describe cannabis in its base form as “a big, sticky ball of bud”. She was looking at a picture of a cannabis grower proudly holding his raw product and she was visibly confused. Hilarity ensued among her more knowledgeable colleagues. And now, hiding behind the screen of this computer, I’ll admit that person was me. I was the butt—or rather bud—of the joke.
Pushing aside my unimaginative use of adjectives, it will likely be clear from my description that I know very little about this mystical plant. You’d be right. I’ve looked at paraphernalia and wondered which end you smoke. I’ve searched for the string on a pink plastic grinder thinking it was a yo-yo. I only found out recently that the signature leaf symbol used to represent cannabis the world over isn’t the part that is actually used—or should I be saying consumed? Smoked?
I’m writing at a publication with a proud history advancing understanding about cannabis, and yet here I found myself unsure even of which verb I should be using in relation to pot. Cannabis makes me flustered, which by all accounts is the exact opposite of what it should be doing. But while there has been no shortage of face-palm moments, I’ve never stopped asking questions. That’s because as much as I’m canna-clueless, I’m more canna-curious.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to learn from one of the best in the industry. Chef Travis Petersen, also known as the Nomad Cook, was recognized in the top 18 of MasterChef Canada in 2015. He started creating cannabis-infused dinners seven months ago, thinking it would be a short-lived fad. But since then he has served more than 1,200 people at these infused-dining experiences across the country.
What has struck him the most is the diversity of those attending—from groups of young friends, to couples on date nights, to single seniors.
“I’ve been trying to define myself as a chef ,” Petersen explains, “and it was that moment right there when the 19-year-old and the 70-year-old were having a conversation and sharing their own experiences and stories that I realized there’s a place for cannabis-infused dining. It’s the new frontier in the culinary world.”
It’s Petersen’s mission to revive the dinner party that really drives his passion and he’s found that adding cannabis to his dishes helps bring people together. For every event, he creates a seating plan so that his guests can make new friends and share in their canna-curiosity.
“Watching a table of complete strangers come together inspired me as a chef. I live for those moments,” he says. “Because when you’re eating food it doesn’t matter your race, religion, or background. Every culture shares that bond of breaking bread and we find that the cannabis helps relax some people.”
In fact, Petersen’s infused dinners have proven so successful that he is putting on a holiday edition called A Nomad Christmas Dinner on Saturday (December 15) at a secret location in Vancouver.
For those who’ve never tried cannabis before but are interested to learn more, there is a place for you at the Nomad table. Upon arrival at the dinner guests have to answer some questions to determine what they would like to get out of their infused-dining experience.
“Each person is dosed separately based on their own individual tolerance—and that’s what separates me from any other chef who’s doing this right now,” says Petersen. “We’re micro-dosing to each person’s tolerance.”
Attendees will learn the difference between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the nonpsychotropic compound of the plant. He does not serve alcohol at his meals so that people can really enjoy the dishes. And while cannabis is added to the food for a reason, Petersen and his team aim to accurately dose each guest so they have an amazing experience—whether they smoke every day or have never tried it in their lives.
“If you take some THC you’re going to feel the effects of it. However we’re doing CBD-infused mocktails and –infused tea and all these cool things to make sure that we’re providing a proper balance for people,” he says.
A Nomad Christmas Dinner isn’t your regular potluck—couldn’t resist. Guests will enjoy a top-quality menu of five courses paired with a variety of drinks, flower, and infusion. And if you’re wondering if it will affect the flavours, it doesn’t. I asked.
“We use a distillate that’s odourless and flavourless so you’ll taste the true essence of the dish. In the future I want some of the dishes to be capturing that cannabis taste, flavour, and smell. We have some plans in the New Year to do that. But for the time being, we’re making sure we’re giving people that overall experience. So people may be coming because they want to experience cannabis but the food by itself is worth the admission of the meal.”
Guests are encouraged to get into the holiday spirit by following the dress code of wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. And special guest Santa Claus will be taking photos and handing out presents to everyone in attendance, whether they’ve been naughty or nice. But Petersen’s main goal is a simple one: uniting people through food.
“It’s all about meeting new friends and changing regular dinner conversation. We find that cannabis is the perfect tool to bring people together—the perfect ingredient.”
A Nomad Christmas Dinner takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday (December 15), at a secret location in downtown Vancouver. Seats at this very special dining experience are limited so make sure you book your place now. Tickets are $175 and include an exclusive five-course infused dinner with drink pairings created by Chef Travis Petersen, the Nomad Cook. All attendees must be aged 19 or older.