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Since its legalization back in 2018, marijuana has found its way into the food scene in Canada. Although restaurants may not be able to serve green dishes just yet, there are certainly some entrepreneurial spirits who have taken infused food and drink to the next level.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought indoor dining to a halt, a company called byMINISTRY had been hosting cannabis-infused pop-up dinners in private residences and some open-minded restaurants in Toronto. The company in collaboration with chef Ted Corrado aimed to elevate the dining experience by marrying cuisine and cannabis.
“We believe in redefining modern cooking by celebrating the plant as the focal point of a meal, rather than a side-thought,” Corrado wrote in the menu.
Corrado was set to be the Director of Culinary for a flagship cannabis lounge meant to open in Toronto in 2020. Due to the pandemic, this project was held off indefinitely. Although a cannabis lounge seems like something of the future, there are still some passionate people currently working on bringing it closer to a reality.
Toronto chef Jordan Wagman is one of them. By hosting 15-course private meals that have the option of being served infused with cannabis, Wagman is making waves in the scene by offering this micro-dosing experience. With these private meals being sold out months in advance, it’s no secret the demand for a cannabis-forward dining experience is there.
Wagman’s personal health journey has led him on a path to become somewhat of a “cannabis advocate” within the industry.
At 12 years old, Wagman was diagnosed with Psoriasis, which sent him to the hospital numerous times. Taking medication that would have lasting negative side effects drove him toward seeking out alternative treatments, one of which being CBD.
“My goal is to help destigmatize this plant and its effects on us,” he says.
The meals he creates with cannabis are not only a unique flavour experience, but they also provide a slew of health benefits. He explains there are many different reasons why people are looking to use cannabis, so when it comes to food, anyone can enjoy its effects.
“Cooking with cannabis is not solely about getting high, you don’t have to be a regular user to enjoy the food,” he says.
Wagman is a classically French-trained chef, but has altered his style due to his dietary restrictions and health goals. “Cannabis has really helped me create a different voice for myself,” he says. “It’s a great ingredient to use in my food.”
He explains that his ultimate goal is to create meals that people can replicate at home, but warns there must be more education for chefs and users to properly enjoy and prepare the experience.
“Ideally what we would need to be able to serve cannabis is a sommelier,” he says. “Just like with wine, they would be able to suggest the right pairings and quantity for each guest.”
Another potential issue lies within the already existing edibles market. Wagman says without the choice for healthier infused options, it will be difficult for people to buy products to make meals at home.
One brand based out of Ontario is striving toward a healthier approach to edibles by working with unique, artisanal products. Olli crafts premium cannabis-infused teas and edibles with quality ingredients. The edibles are prepared by an award-winning chef and the tea blends are internationally sourced and chosen by an in-house tea sommelier.
If legal dispensaries begin to carry more of these “high-end” edible products, there will be more access to products people can use to create their own cannabis-infused meals at home.
The most recent Canadian study on cannabis use was conducted in 2020, which revealed that over half of respondents reported eating or drinking cannabis inside the home––an increase from the previous year.
With the industry only growing larger and more diverse, the potential for edible cannabis products is expansive. Chefs, business owners and users alike may one day see the restaurant industry adopting a cannabis-infused menu, but chef Jordan Wagman believes it will still need more time.
“I don’t know how long it will take to move into the mainstream, but cannabis-infused food in restaurants is inevitable,” said Wagman. “What we need is more education to do it correctly, but the possibilities are endless.”