Travis Petersen, the Nomad Cook, is a chef from British Columbia on a mission to keep Canada’s weed first-mover advantage and expand legalization to include cannabis-infused restaurants and cooking. “What we’re demonstrating from a culinary perspective is that cannabis-infused cooking can be done and done safely and help elevate not only the Canadian cannabis industry, but obviously the cannabis user-experience and the entire culinary culture of our country,” says Petersen, who’s taken his talents to Arizona, where the more lax culinary cannabis regulations have allowed him to expand his sphere of influence. “The longer Canada waits to approve quite obvious legal regulations, the faster the rest of the world moves ahead of Canada, which is a shame because we have brilliant chefs in this country and a population that’s already proven they love good weed.”
Good weed in Canada has been a revolution since Justin Trudeau enacted the Cannabis Act on October 17, 2018. With it, however, have come paternalistic regulations whose shortsightedness weakens our extraordinary foundation. It is currently illegal for a restaurant to sell cannabis-infused food and even private ticketed dinners exist in a cannabis grey zone. Meanwhile, the US—specifically California and Nevada—are moving ahead of Canada and allowing both consumption lounges and restaurants where pot and food are served, legally. Petersen, who competed on Master Chef Canada and is spreading infused cannabis cooking techniques with culinary institutes both in the US and Canada, is pushing the boundaries through education on what infused cooking, and proper cannabis dosage, looks like. He envisions a future where restaurants not only have a Sous Chef and Pastry Chef, but also a Cannabis Chef, someone in charge of proper, custom dosage for consumers of age. Meanwhile, Petersen is well past pot brownies and gummies and doing things with celebrity chefs that include 7-course tasting menus and gourmet-infused sauces like an Infused Maple White Soy Reduction. Josh Karbelnik, the Top Chef Canada season nine finalist, is just one of the chefs who’s collaborated with Petersen and believes that his country should do more to allow chefs to safely work with the flower he loves.
“I think cooking with cannabis is a fun and unique way of dining, rather than pairing with wine, you are pairing the terpenes of each cannabis strain, which can be challenging and different. Why aren't we allowed to do this in an every day setting in a restaurant? Its new and exciting and should be celebrated," says Karbelnik, who, with his wife Top Chef Canada winner aeason 9 Erica Karbelnik, has hosted events in Toronto for Petersen and has been working hard on expanding his infused repertoire. Currently, his infused dishes include oysters rockefellar and short ribs with an infused risotto. “Legalization has been amazing, and successful, but Canada has only taken the first step—there’s so much more we can do!”
That Chefs like Josh Karbelnik and Antonin Mousseau-Rivard—recently named one of Canada’s top ten chefs who also served up an infused dinner for Petersen—are actively stumping for progressive law changes with regards to infused cooking is a net positive for anyone interested in the Canadian weed world. Whether an enthusiast or just someone curious in cannabis, infused cooking is an easy touch point into the flower and a delicious way for Canadians to put their culinary imprint on the world.
“The current laws in Canada ignore the potential of the industry, and it limits the growth of Canadian chefs,” says Petersen, who has both a cookbook and documentary dropping this fall and plans to tour both projects across the United States and his beloved, though somewhat faltering, Canadian homeland. “Cannabis is an opportunity to make an original Canadian cuisine that we already know the market is hungry for. Do we want to allow America to get ahead of us? Of course the answer is no, so what’s the next step for infused cannabis cooking? Education, followed by progressive law change—starting today.”
To follow more of Travis Petersen and his infused dinners, see The_NomadCook on Instagram and for Josh & Erica Karbelnik’s Private in home dining experience @bringonthekarbs or @chefericak