A Peek Inside the World of Cannabis Fine Dining from a 420 Chef

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. 

How to Spice Things up in the Kitchen

How to Spice Things up in the Kitchen

Guests continue to clamor for “authentic” flavors in food. But “authentic” is largely up for interpretation, as it means something a little different to each person.

One thing that remains consistent in the quest for authenticity in cuisine is the use of spices. While “spicy” never seems to fall far on industry flavor trends and forecasts, “spices” are continuing to trend upwards. It is the deep understanding and deliberate use of each one that offers guests a truly authentic experience.

 

Curry Flavors Rise Up

Middle Eastern curry flavors are vast, complex, and range widely depending on the dish. These spices are fantastic ground and used together.

The many components making up the complex flavor of any curry dish can be equally exciting used on their own. Consider turmeric, and the rise in popularity of this root in many forms. Fawned over for health benefits, this spice can deliver dazzling flavor and visuals, yet many establishments only deploy the superfood powers when making a traditional dish. So there is room to bring turmeric into the mainstream. Understanding the spice and the earthy flavors associated with is crucial. Also, practicing restraint is important too since turmeric flavors can be quite strong. This root packs in aromas that border on citrus and complex flavors that rival ginger and the peppery bite associated with it, especially in raw form.

Read More

Food Trends of 2017 Predicted

Food Trends of 2017 Predicted

By Adria Valdes Greenhauff, Editor-at-Large

With 2016 coming to a close, it’s a great time for industry professionals reflect on the past 12 months, learning from all the success and set back that came with it. And with a brand new year ahead, it’s also the perfect time to for chefs and restauranteurs to look for new and unique opportunities to expand menu options and attract new consumer attention. 

In a recent industry study, advertising agency Sterling-Rice Group (SRG) identified its top ten culinary trends that will stand out in restaurants and grocery shelves across the U.S. in 2017. 

“Broad and growing interest in wellness and the environment, as well as a strong desire to connect with international cultures, continues to be significant key factors influencing the way U.S. consumers eat and drink,” the company explained in a press release. 

Here are just a few culinary trends expected to move from cutting edge to mainstream.

Read More

Leading Culinary Predictions and Trends 2016: What’s in the Hunt?

Leading Culinary Predictions and Trends 2016: What’s in the Hunt?

By Barbara L. Vergetis Lundin, Assistant Editor

A survey of chefs conducted by the National Restaurant Association predicted 20 trends for 2016. The chefs are obviously on top of their game, as all of the trends have come to fruition in some form or fashion. Which ones are in the hunt?

Read More

The Rise of Nordic Cuisine: Where It Comes From and Where It’s Heading

The Rise of Nordic Cuisine: Where It Comes From and Where It’s Heading

By Suzy Badaracco, Foodable Industry Expert

Food, flavor, and health trends are oftentimes born outside the food industry. So, by only looking at restaurants, food magazines, casual dining, and manufacturers’ movements, you can easily miss a trend’s birth or miscalculate its impact or time of death. There are several different birth paths and parents that can cause a trend to emerge. One of many birth types is called a Courier, which acts to shuttle a trend in from a neighboring industry or focus. Travel often acts as a Courier to the food industry. Simply put, consumers travel, experience the local cuisine, and return home seeking to replicate their food experiences. The Nordic cuisine trend’s parent is Travel, resulting from a Courier birth.

Read More