Foodies delight: cannabis infused edibles are a booming industry in Canada. From homemade confections to multi-course gourmet meals, canna-cuisine is taking the nation by storm.
The interest in cannabis seems to have permeated every sphere of life since the federal legalization in 2018. Travis Petersen, a cannabis chef who opened a culinary cannabis company called The Nomad Cook in 2015, knows that better than anyone.
“You often hear about rock bands travelling around in RVs, not chefs,” he says with a laugh. “But the world has changed.”
Petersen packed up his RV, climbed inside with his wife and dog, and set off on a cross-country business trip. He has planned a series of culinary cannabis workshops and pop-up dinners to be held in several cities stretching from Vancouver to Quebec City.
“There is tremendous interest in cannabis cuisine among chefs. We’re only at the beginning of this trend,” says Paul Kenyon, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Russell Hendrix.
Response to his events has been overwhelming — a promising development in the evolution of cannabis cuisine.
Workshops in five provinces
Petersen has partnered with Russell Hendrix, a national supplier of commercial kitchen equipment and appliances, to host 18 workshops this spring and summer.
The first event was in Victoria on June 1, and the last workshop of the tour will be held in Montréal on July 30. In between those dates, Petersen is holding workshops in 10 cities across five provinces. He has scheduled multiple workshops in a handful of cities including Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal.
“We’re a national organization with showrooms across the country,” says Paul Kenyon, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Toronto-based Russell Hendrix.
“When Travis shared his vision with us, we said, ‘Why not use our facilities to hold your events when possible?’ We didn’t search out opportunities in the cannabis industry but this one fell into our laps, so we went with it. There is tremendous interest in cannabis cuisine among chefs. We’re only at the beginning of this trend.”
Each two-hour workshop focuses on evolving methods of cooking with cannabis including decarboxylation, a process that involves applying low heat for an extended period of time to convert cannabis’ non-intoxicating THCA into THC. Petersen is also introducing participants to relevant safety procedures and responsibilities.
“Never before have we encountered one ingredient that requires so much care in cooking,” says Petersen, who was once a contestant on MasterChef Canada, a competitive cooking reality show. “We have to be very precise with cannabis.”
Every session includes between 10 and 12 chefs. Participants are required to take a quiz and must score 80% to earn certification for culinary cannabis. Petersen ends every workshop by treating participants to a three-course cannabis-infused meal.
Between 150 and 200 chefs are attending these workshops nationally, and Petersen believes this interest reflects a change in public perception of cannabis.
“I have been championing cannabis cuisine for about three years. I have always had support within the cannabis industry but not beyond that,” he says. “But the stigma surrounding cannabis is diminishing and people are now interested in its many uses.”
Pop-up meals booked solid
On this cross-country tour, Petersen has more on his plate than the workshops. He’s also hosting pop-up dinners in private outdoor venues in more than a dozen cities.
In each pop-up, Peterson is doing four sittings of 10 people. Interest was especially high in Edmonton, where he will hold 12 sittings over three days, including Canada Day. By mid-May more than 85% of available spots across the country were taken.
Petersen says about 15 percent of the people who have signed up for a pop-up meal are not cannabis users. “We need to make sure that demographic is taken care of,” he says, adding that he adjusts dosing according to the cannabis experience and tolerance of each guest. “There seems to be a ‘cool factor’ at play here.”
“I’m booked solid. I’ve never seen anything like that before and I think I know why,” he adds. “We have all been cooped up for more than a year because of the pandemic. We want to get out and enjoy ourselves.”
“My colleagues and I are very excited about this initiative,” says Kenyon. “There was no trepidation about getting involved. Most of our people have been around for a long time and they see the value of catching a wave and supporting new ideas.”
Looking ahead, Petersen plans to introduce a cooking class this fall. He hasn’t worked out the details yet because right now he has too much on his plate. “This is going to be a really busy summer,” says Petersen, whose business slowed to a crawl during the pandemic. “But I haven’t worked in eight months, so it’s great.”
The Nomad Cook tour dates
- Courtenay, BC – June 1
- Victoria, BC – June 3,4
- Vancouver, BC – June 11,12
- Kelowna, BC – June 18,19
- Revelstoke, BC – June 20
- Golden, BC – June 20
- Fernie, BC – June 21
- Calgary, AB – June 24 to 28
- Edmonton, AB – June 29 – July 2
- Winnipeg, MB – July 6, 7
- Toronto, ON – July 14 to 18
- Ottawa, ON – July 23
- Québec City, QC – July 26
- Montréal, QC – July 31