Chef Travis Petersen has launched a sort of “Serving it Right” course for cooking with cannabis as a means of pushing along interest in what he sees an emerging culinary scene, even if it is ahead of Canadian regulations.
It is a two-hour course that covers the basics of what the cannabis plant and its active components are, the math involved in creating dosages, and responsibility around tolerance levels and serving.
While it isn’t legal for restaurants to cook cannabis-infused foods, chefs are cooking for guests who provide marijuana for private dinners, Petersen said, and some 250 culinary professionals have signed up for sessions he is teaching on a Canada-wide tour.
“This certificate is (about) safety, responsibility and methods,” said Petersen, who is also known as The Nomad Cook. “When you have this certificate, it doesn’t mean you can start serving cannabis in your restaurant, that’s still not allowed.”
However, “there is a window of opportunity and the world looks at Canada as a leader with cannabis,” Petersen said, which he argues is at risk of being lost.
He said since starting on this specialty in 2018, he has cooked for 4,600 guests. During a 2019 stint in Toronto, at least a dozen couples attending private dinners were American tourists who had travelled just for a cannabis-cuisine experience.
“We need to start offering our chefs the opportunity to work with this, and I understand if it’s not going to go into restaurants right away,” Petersen said. “But if we don’t continue being progressive with it, someone else is going to.”
There are educational outlets in other parts of the country. An Ontario firm, the Cannabis Cooking Co., advertises what it calls chef certification. A reporter’s emails to the company’s head chef went unanswered.
And in the U.S., the American Culinary Federation is offering certificate training for cooking with cannabis, according to the association publication We Are Chefs. That same publication referenced a poll by the U.S. National Restaurant Association that listed cannabis and CBD-infused food as its No. 1 and No. 2 top trends.
In Canada, however, restaurants would need to be licensed to produce edible products and follow all production regulations, including requirements for testing and packaging, according to Health Canada spokeswoman Tammy Jarbeau.
The regulations also carry a prohibition against the production of cannabis edibles in the same location as non-cannabis food, and packaged products must also carry an excise stamp.
While a chef could apply for a federal licence to produce cannabis-infused food, they wouldn’t be able to sell it without a provincial licence.
“Our edible regulations haven’t moved at all,” Petersen said. “They’re very strict, over-regulated.”