Local chef agency celebrating Canada Day with weed-infused dinners

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While the majority of the city’s pot community was engulfed in smoke at Sunset Beach Park, a former Master Chef contestant was cooking up weed-infused meals for 132 strangers.

Travis Petersen, founder of the Nomad Cook, a private chef agency, says the positive feedback he received from his 4/20 cannabis dinner series has now inspired him to recreate the experience for the upcoming Canada Day weekend. The 4/20 event, a first for the private chef, was intended to celebrate and draw attention to different consumption methods ahead of the impending federal legalization of recreational cannabis.

Travis Petersen

“It was a huge success,” says Petersen, sitting down with the Georgia Straight.

“If I needed a reason to fall in love with the [cannabis] community again, that was it.”

After watching L.A.-based chef Christopher Sayegh of the Herbal Chef bring a two-day, five-star infused experience to Vancouver in March, Petersen confides it was the push he needed to put on an “edible event” of his own.

The three-day series in April was Petersen's first attempt at exploring an idea he had been toying with for some time: Bring a blend of strangers from all levels of weed experience around one farm-style dinner table. In total, 13 groups of diners enjoyed fine dining, networked, and got pleasantly stoned. 

Served in a private Vancouver residence, the Nomad team, alongside chef Evan Elman, crafted a six-course menu centred around weed. While some of the dishes were infused with 10-20 milligrams of THC distillate (an oil containing some of the most common compounds found in cannabis), others paid homage with a more creative element like billowing pot smoke or weed-infused wine.

“For our first course we took a champagne glass and we froze it with liquid nitrogen in front of the guests,” says Petersen.

“Then we took a smoking gun and piped pot smoke in the glass, and then we put a piece of candied salmon over it and called it ‘smoked salmon’.”

Most organizations, including Health Canada, say anywhere between 10 to 30 milligrams constitutes a standard dose of cannabis, so these dinners may pack a punch for a novice or new consumer. To avoid adverse effects, Petersen gave a questionnaire to the attendees ahead of time to determine tolerance and dosed every individual dish accordingly.

Petersen says the first of the infused dinner series saw both locals and guests who travelled from as far as Toronto, Portland, Seattle, Winnipeg, and Alaska. Since then, The Nomad Cook has hosted similar dinners, including a recent infused event in Kelowna.

“We have such a wide demographic,” he says.

“Everything from your 20-year-old raver kid who is super into getting stoned right up to a widower, coming in by herself, using [cannabis] for medical purposes.” 

Josh, a 26-year-old digital marketer, attended one of Petersen’s 4/20 dinners and says the event was "personalized and memorable."

“The cannabis element was fun, a bit of spice to the evening,” he says in an email interview with the Straight.

“[The idea was] come, eat dinner with a table of strangers, and break any social awkwardness by getting a bit high. Have fun together whilst enjoying great, restaurant-quality food."

Born in B.C. and raised on the North Shore, Petersen plans to pay homage to his roots over the Canada Day weekend. The series will serve a menu of Canuck-themed courses including fried bannock with Saskatoon berry sauce, maple glazed pork belly, and a deconstructed Nanaimo bar, all infused with cannabis oil.

Petersen believes immersive experiences like these are likely to gain popularity as legalization proceeds, despite the government's proposed one-year delay to regulate edibles. The Nomad Cook team also plans to sponsor chefs from pot-friendly states, like Colorado, to host infused dinners across Canada as the demand grows.

“I have a model that’s going to work, and we are going to use it to give other cannabis chefs the opportunity to come here and train,” he says.

“No longer does the consumer have to go somewhere to get something. It comes to you,” he says.

Petersen says events like this play an important role in changing the stigma surrounding cannabis use because they provide a welcoming and safe atmosphere for those new to consuming.

“Forever cannabis has been something we talked about under our breath or in the privacy of our homes. You never openly talked about it over the dinner table,” he says.

“But we do now.”