When it comes to weed, munchies have always been a part of the consumption experience. If a few drags of a joint or a bong rip is considered the first course, a bag of chips is the entree, followed by an entire pint of ice cream for dessert—or some such variation on treats.
For chefs, however, the appetite-stimulating substance is a doorway into a new culinary art. And Canada is finally in the game.
“It’s been an absolute whirlwind. I could have never predicted the response,” chef Travis Petersen tells the Georgia Straight, reflecting on a weed-infused-dining series he started on 4/20 last year.
A homegrown B.C. boy, the former Master Chef contestant became recognized as Canada’s leading weed chef in less than 12 months thanks to the globally trending plant. Travelling from province to province, Petersen hosts private cannabis dinners under the name the Nomad Cook.
“Canadians are craving this. It doesn’t matter where I take the infused-dining series, they fill up,” Petersen says.
With edibles expected to be the most popular consumption method for Canadian consumers when legalized later this year, Vancouver’s budding cannabis chefs believe the evolution of infused dining is the country’s opportunity to define a new foodie draw.
Much like what celebrity weed chefs Christopher Sayegh and Andrea Drummer have done for Los Angeles, or what Amsterdam’s infamous cannabis cafés have done for Europe, Petersen says the Great White North has the eyes and taste buds of the world waiting in anticipation.
“Internationally, we have never really been seen as a competitive culinary destination. We have amazing diversity of food in this country because we are so multicultural, but this is really our chance to stake our flag on the culinary map,” he says.
“Canada has always been a cannabis country, legal or not. B.C. has had the best bud in the world for decades. Let’s lead with that.”
Red Seal chef Adam Barski says that although infused cuisine is a crowd pleaser, the excitement is based on providing cannabis-curious consumers with a smoke-free way to experiment with a newly legal substance.
He discovered his aptitude for baked baking through medical necessity and says his focus is on providing alternatives to boozy pub nights and smoke-heavy vape lounges.
Just over eight years ago, Barski’s best friend was hospitalized for several months. Upon release, he wanted to explore cannabis as an alternative to prescription medication, but he couldn’t smoke as his condition left him with severe lung damage.
“When my friend got sick, I vowed to find a better way of consuming: making it more medicinal, healthier, figuring out the math of exact dosing,” he tells the Straight by phone.
Combining 12 years of culinary experience with his passion for pot, he set up a booth at Vancouver’s annual 4/20 cannabis protest and celebration to sell medical-grade infused edibles. He, much like Petersen, was astounded at the response.
“The excitement came because this was a completely different level than what people normally were used to seeing,” he says. Alongside edible classics like kush cookies and hash brownies, he offered attendees decadent desserts like infused strawberry mouse encased in a chocolate-dipped, hazelnut-encrusted cake topped with gold leaf.
“It was the first time a lot of people had seen the combination of a professional chef’s cooking skills with cannabis.”
The following day, Barski launched Budder Bakery, a line of gourmet goods made with all the traditional ingredients of baked goods—sugar, butter, flour—and one nontraditional addition: weed.
He and cannabis entrepreneurs Tamu and Zia Stolbie launched the High-End Dinner Series last year. The series hosts educational experiences centred on fine dining in the few places that will permit consumption. From joint-rolling demonstrations to film screenings, Barski ensures each event has a smorgasbord of sesh-friendly snacks.
“As much as it is a fun experience, it’s also about breaking down the stigma and making sure people are learning about the plant,” Barski says. “It’s [edibles] not legal yet, so in the grey space it’s our job to show the rest of the world how to do this responsibly.”
Petersen—who has spent the past year travelling to places like New York, Las Vegas, and Asia—says Canadian weed catches interest unlike anything he has ever experienced.
“We have a chance to highlight our country’s signature flavours using the avenue of cannabis,” he says, a statement embodied by his West Coast amuse-bouche aptly called smoked salmon: smoke from organic, locally grown pot piped into a frozen Champagne flute topped with candied Haida Gwaii salmon.