By Nicole Di Tomasso
Three years into legalizing recreational cannabis, Canada’s stipulation against cannabis-infused meals at restaurants hasn’t changed. In response, chef Travis Petersen of The Nomad Cook intends to shift the conversation around culinary cannabis in hopes of creating new opportunities for chefs.
Petersen is teaming up with Russell Hendrix Restaurant Equipment to provide culinary professionals with an Introduction to Culinary Cannabis certification. The 13 workshops will focus on safety, responsibility and extraction for more than 250 chefs at Russell Hendrix’s test kitchens across Canada.
“I’m grateful to be partnering with a company like Russell Hendrix, who’s well-established in the culinary industry and has no direct correlation with cannabis, but sees this as an important skill set,” says Petersen. “The goal is to make sure the next generation has every opportunity to cook with cannabis, if not in restaurants one day, then at least at the private-catering level to start with.”
“Travis is such a willing participant,” says Peter Kenyon, executive vice-president of Sales and Marketing, Russell Hendrix. “He’s so engaging and appreciative of what Russell Hendrix is doing for him, and we’re appreciative of what he’s doing for us.”
The tour kicked off on June 3 in Victoria, B.C., bringing together local chefs who want to be a part of this progressive movement.
“We had a couple of retired chefs attend the class who sat in the front row and asked the most questions,” says Petersen. “This goes to show that culinary professionals are always willing to learn. It’s great to see some non-cannabis users come in and want to learn about safety and responsibility in cannabis cuisine.”
The number of workshop attendees is dependent on each province’s COVID-19 restrictions; however, Petersen re-assures culinary professionals that there will be an opportunity to access the courses online through The Base Plant — a web portal for culinary-cannabis courses — after the tour with Russell Hendrix ends.
“We’ll be offering a second course, which involves cooking with cannabis, but before you cook with it, you need to pass the safety test,” says Petersen.
In addition to the workshops, Petersen is hosting 39 pop-up dinner events across the. What separates Petersen from other cannabis chefs is he caters the dosage to each guest individually. So far, 625 people have purchased tickets.
“About 15 per cent of my guests are first-time cannabis users, and they’re nervous when they come in,” says Petersen. “This demographic is so important to give a good experience to.”
Currently, Petersen’s signature starter is a citrus salad with blood orange, sumo orange, pink grapefruit, smashed avocado, shaved fennel, pomegranate seeds, maple apple smoked cheese and roasted pistachio nuts and topped with a cannabis-infused vinaigrette that is made to three different potencies: five milligrams, 10 milligrams and 25 milligrams.
To date, chef Petersen has served 4,222 guests. If the trend continues on its upward trajectory, he says we could see cannabis-infused options on restaurant menus sooner than expected.
“It feels right to support Travis and what he’s doing, to leverage our facilities and assets and to bring chefs together,” says Kenyon.
“My hope is that with this course and partnering with Russell Hendrix, more private chefs will start offering at-home culinary cannabis. I think we’re going to see the culinary landscape change post-COVID,” says chef Petersen. “I want to inspire chefs and reinforce the idea that you don’t need to have a restaurant to work in the industry. You can probably have a better lifestyle doing private events, and maybe even make more money doing it. I want to let the upcoming chefs lead the way. This goes to show the importance of a partner like Russell Hendrix in making the pendulum swing.”