The cannabis Industry as a whole has morphed into a billion-dollar industry. The plant continues to gain popularity for its healing benefits. Today, it’s legal for some kind of medical use in 30 states and eight states and the District of Columbia it is now legal for recreational use.
With dispensaries on every corner in states like Colorado, why haven’t restaurants in regions where recreational marijuana is legal tried to corner this market?
Well, it can’t be used publicly. But that doesn’t mean that cannabis dining isn’t gaining momentum.
While some restaurants have started to incorporate CBD infused offerings onto menus because it is legal, another chef is making a name for himself by doing private events and pop-up dinners with cannabis cuisine.
We sat down with Jeff The 420 Chef, also dubbed the “Julia Child of Weed,” to hear his unique story, learn about the cannabis fine dining trend, and understand the current challenges the cannabis industry is experiencing.
Can you tell us a little bit about your culinary background and how you got into cannabis cooking?
Jeff, The 420 Chef: I think I am the only cannabis chef out there without culinary school training.
In a previous life, until about five years ago, I was actually the Executive Vice President of a pretty large underwear brand. But I was frequently cooking for my mom's firned who was sick. One thing led to the next and I started cooking for other people with cannabis.
My mom’s friend loved the food and was telling all her friends about it. Eventually, I ended up cooking for several people who were sick not just with cancer, but with other diseases that had medical cannabis cards here in California.
Before I knew it, I had figured out how to take out that cannabis taste from the canna oils and canna butters I was cooking with. I then ended up teaching a few really well known chefs how to do it too. In return, instead of paying me, they would just teach me some of their techniques.
I was being mentored by different renowned chefs along the way until all of a sudden, I became one of the top cannabis chefs in America.
What trends are you seeing emerge?
Jeff, The 420 Chef: Now, it's really all about fine dining. A lot of really well known chefs are getting into the business because they're putting their names out there and are getting more involved in the trend.
What are some of the challenges you're seeing with the cannabis industry?
Jeff, The 420 Chef: The biggest challenge is finding clean cannabis and clean cannabis ingredients.
The secret to my process really starts with cleaning the cannabis.
One of the biggest issues is a lot of these extractions are tainted. So, if you're starting out with product that's tainted with mold, fungus or bacteria, you already have an issue.
Not to mention, due to the laws here in California, I'm not allowed to supply my own canna oil or canna butter when I cook for somebody. So my guests have to give me the cannabis and then I have to make the butter and oil. I'm cooking with their cannabis, so they're just basically paying me for culinary services. And sometimes they bring me low quality cannabis, so usually what I'll do is I'll send them to a trusted resource of mine. That way I know it's clean and the cuisine has a very different result.
Do you think more restaurants will start to introduce this style of cooking, at least at pop-up events?
Jeff, The 420 Chef: Actually, yes! But the only thing that restaurants can do at this point is to use CBD infused things. It has to be 100% CBD without THC because unfortunately, CBD derives from a cannabis sativa plant, which is illegal.
So we're looking for CBD strains that have less than 0.01% THC, which is very hard to find. But CBD is already being featured at certain restaurants. That's pretty much all you can do as a chef at a restaurant, at least for now.