Culinary Cannabis Secrets With Jeff The 420 Chef
Jeff started his professional life as a marketing executive in the fashion world – but like many who enter into the cannabis world – was searching for something more meaningful. He used his passion for cooking to make edibles for friends suffering from various illnesses. When they told him they couldn’t stand the taste of weed in the food, he went on a mission to figure out how to perfect the art of cooking with cannabis.
It took him a while, but he solved the taste problem and realized that he had discovered something special that he wanted to share with the world. He decided to become a full time Canna-Chef and was quickly dubbed the Julia Childs of Cannabis!
We asked him to share his story and his cooking secrets with us – just in time for Thanksgiving this year!
So be prepared to drop some Culinary Cannabis Knowledge on your friends and family at the Thanksgiving table this year, because Jeff doesn’t just put weed into food – he is an artist, a scientist, and an innovator. Plus, he’s a damn good time.
Enjoy the interview on our podcast (highly suggested) or read the transcript below.
You have been dubbed one of the world’s top cannabis chefs. Where did it all start?
Before I became a cannabis chef, I was doing marketing in New York. I was an executive in the fashion industry doing marketing for some pretty well-known underwear brands. I’d been doing that for a little over 25 years. I was at a place in my life where I wanted more but I had no clue what I wanted to do. All I knew is that I want to do something that could help people other than putting sexy underwear on them.
At the time I had just started cooking and baking for a family member who was suffering from inoperable brain cancer. One of my friend’s moms around the same time was also diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.
Both of them had medical marijuana recommendations, which is like a prescription, but they didn’t want to smoke it. At the time edibles weren’t even a thing and everything tasted pretty bad if there was anything. So I started cooking with cannabis and trying to make them cookies just because I love making cookies and brownies and cakes. They would ask me for those products without cannabis, but then one of them said, why don’t you try it with cannabis?
My son Jared, who’s now president of my company, came to me and said, ‘your friends don’t like the taste of cannabis in the food, is there any way that I could remove that taste of cannabis?’
It took me about a year and a half, but I figured it out. Right around that time was when I had the epiphany that I could become a cannabis chef. Nobody else was doing it at the time. There were a couple of the people dabbling in it. One of them is Andrea Drummer. She’s now the chef over at Lowell cafe, which is the first cannabis cafe to open in West Hollywood.
We will be opening up the second cafe, which is Budberry. One of the other chefs is a guy named Holden Jagger who’s got a lot of patents and he’s also getting ready to work with one of the lounges here.
But going back to that time, I finally figured out how to remove the cannabis taste from the butter and oils that I was using to make my baked goods. Once I figured that out and I put it out there, the world started opening up to me and I said, this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life. Helping people with infused edibles that don’t taste like weed.
The art of cooking with cannabis. Tell us more about taking out the weed taste?
That taste that you’re tasting – no matter what strain of cannabis you use – is burnt terpenes, burned chlorophyll, and burned flavonoids. Those all combined give you that really weedy or herbaceous taste. So I figured out a way to remove those compounds, but still keep the THC and CBD intact in the trichomes. Now we cook straight with the trichomes that are on the plant, that are sloughed off into our oils or butters and have no cannabis taste.
Is that something that people could do in their own kitchens?
They can do part of the process. As soon as I figured out I had to take out the taste, I knew had something compelling and I also knew that I wanted to share it with the world, but I also wanted to make sure that I could make a living on it.
What I decided to do is I decided to share the first part of a five-part process with everybody out there. That first part of the process is, removing a lot of the compounds on the outside of the plant responsible for that taste. You can find that process online.
There is a step by step, you know, process that teaches you how to clean your cannabis and remove all the surface compounds from that plant that are potentially contaminated as well as some of the more volatile surface terpenes that are responsible for the odor and taste. So you clean your cannabis first and then you can make a cannabis oil or Canna butter that’s much lighter tasting than a typical candidate or cannabis oil.
If you use it properly, and I teach you how to do that in the cookbook as well, you are able to make edibles that are virtually tasteless.
What is the best extraction method? The best way to get THC into a form that you can then cook with?
The easiest way is to take your cannabis once it’s been cleaned. And put it into a French press because it has a built-in filter. So you put it into a French press with either butter or oil and you put that French press into a pot of boiling water. You have to bring it up to a specific temperature. So between 175 and 212 is really when the trichomes, which house the THC and CBD, when those start to melt off.
By putting it into butter or oil and then putting it into that hot water, once the butter/oil reaches the proper temperature, the trichomes begin to melt off. Then those trichomes will infuse that butter oil.
It’s about a two hour process. If you do it properly then you’ll have a really nice tasting canna butter or coconut oil that you could use just like you would use a typical butter or oil in any recipe.
The trick comes to dosing. Let’s say that you infuse a stick of butter, right? And now you have one stick of infused cannabutter and you want to put cannabis into your chocolate chip cookies. The trick is not using the entire stick of butter in your cookies, but it’s figuring out how potent that butter is and then how many tablespoons or how much of that butter you’re going to add into your recipe and substitute regular butter so that you can actually dose your cookies properly. Then you can have two or three cookies instead of half of one cookie.
How do you calculate the mg of a stick of butter for dosing?
If you want to know the potency of the edibles you’re making, I invented a calculator. That calculator specifically tells you how potent the butter is that you’re using. Then you can also figure out per serving how many milligrams each cookie is. If you use the calculator before you cook, you can figure out how potent you want your cookies to be. If you know how many cookies you’re going to make from your batch, then you could put it then the right amount of canna butter into your recipe.
Does the Specific Cannabis Strain Matter When Cooking?
The strain doesn’t matter as much as the ripeness of the trichomes. Because you’re removing so many of the surface compounds, including the terpenes, flavonoids, and chlorophyll that all come together when you’re smoking cannabis to create what is called the entourage effect, we’re removing all of that. When you’re done putting your cannabis through my process, all that you have left are the trichomes. And that’s what you’re putting into your butter/oil.
The effect and the feeling that you get is based on the ripeness of those trichomes. There are three different phases of ripeness. As a cannabis chef, you have to be aware of this because depending on when the cannabis was harvested in its ripening phase, that will determine the effect that your edibles will have.
If the plant is harvested early in the cycle, when the trichomes are glassy and milky – Milky is actually the sweet spot. Trichomes start out glassy, they go to Milky, and then they turn to Amber.
When you are cooking with cannabis and your trichomes are milky-glassy, that’s going to be a more uplifting effect. When the trichomes start turning Amber that’s a more sedative or calming effect. If you could look at the trichomes, which are the little crystals, under like a loop (like a jeweler’s loop) you can clearly see them.
Also you have to understand that the terpenes, which are beneficial, if you use them in your butter or oil they get burnt off and you get that terrible taste. To get rid of that taste you have to remove the terpenes.
How do you put the terpenes back into the experience?
If you have a meal that you’re preparing, it’s very easy to put the terpenes back into that experience by including the terpenes in the food items.
The terpenes that are found in cannabis are the same exact terpenes that are found in natural food items like fruits and vegetables, for example.
Let’s say that my strain of cannabis that I’m starting with has a heavy amount of pinene and limonene. Limonene can also be found in citrus fruits like oranges and lemons and Pinene can be found in other food like basil and pine nuts.
You can reintroduce the terpenes into your menu by making something with a pesto, which is based on pine nuts. And then for dessert a key lime pie where you get the limonene.
Your body doesn’t know the difference, that terpenes specifically come from cannabis or if they come from another food source. It just knows the terpene limonine and pinene.
Wherever your body gets it from, doesn’t matter. Your body knows specifically that it is getting lemonade and pining, but it doesn’t have to be from the cannabis.
Certain parts of the plant are variable and certain parts of the plant are static. So your trichomes are static. The plant is always going to have trichomes and based on ripeness (as I described earlier) you know what’s gonna make you feel like. The variables are the terpenes and the cannabinoid ratios that are in the rest of the plant.
If you remove all of those variables from the process, then you’re only working with the trichomes. The reason why it works well with cooking is because if you left the terpenes in your cannabis to cook with them, they get burnt off anyway. And burnt terpenes don’t do anybody any good.
What about using cannabis for Raw or Plant Based Cooking?
There’s two things you can do. So the first thing is we have the leaves. What I’ve been doing for a very long time is using the leaves in certain recipes. My Canna spinach lasagna is a perfect example where we will take the leaves and chop them up with spinach. Then you’re eating cannabis and spinach in your lasagna. The actual cannabis leaves themselves have a very peppery taste and if you cook them properly, you end up decarbing – which is activating the cannabis and you can get high from it. That’s one way that you can cook with the plant.
Something else which I like to bring up is I’ve invented something called culinary cannabis, which again is edible cannabis flower. The same bud that you smoke I’ve been able to figure out a way to turn it into edible cannabis herbs.
We put it through my process where we take out all of the compounds responsible for the original tastes and odor of the plant. But then I take it one step further through culinary processing. There are no chemicals involved and no additives. What we do is we were able to get the plant to a point where it’s absorbent, almost like a piece of bread as absorbent to odor. I use the same principle to figure out a way to reinfuse odor and flavor into that cannabis so that it can taste like different herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and Rosemary.
Now we’ve got a whole line of products called culinary cannabis that are coming out in February. You’ll be able to take our oregaNO and use it in your recipe in place of oregano and you get high from it. No one’s ever been able to do that before.
There’s no additives, which is the greatest thing about it. I designed this little contraption that will extract the odor from oregano or Rosemary or lavender, and then it will infuse the air within the chamber. Then we put the cannabis into that chamber. Within 24 hours, the cannabis has assumed the odor and taste qualities of whatever we put in there.
Besides the culinary cannabis, we made over 30 flavors of flavored smokable products. Basically a joint that you smoke and it’s flower, but it tastes like lavender, clove, or cool mint. But when you blow out the smoke, there’s no odor of cannabis. Then you don’t have to hide.
Where are we going to be able to buy this?
You’ll be able to purchase it at BudBerry, which is our new lounge. It’s opening up we’re hoping in February. We’re going through city and state and regulations and everything so it could be as late as April. Our target date for a public grand opening is April 20th, but our target date for friends and family could be mid-February.
I wanted to broach the subject of Infused meal planning?
The secret to planning a cannabis infused meal is microdosing. Something that I call layered microdosing. What that is, is that every item in the meal is dosed very low. For example, we do hazy Thai wings with cannabis and each one of those wings might only be one and a half milligrams.
We want people at our dinner parties to go up to about 10, maybe 50 milligrams depending on who the person is. I typically try to keep everybody at 10 because that seems to be the magic number where people are really feeling it but it’s not too much. We tell them, listen, we suggest 10 milligrams throughout the entire meal. If each of the wings is a milligram to a milligram and a half, depending on how I make them you know, you can have three or four wings and still have the regular non infused wings and then have other infused options as well.
We always tell people what the low dose is and then they have to understand that their layering dose is one on top of the other until they hit, for example, 10 or 15 milligrams.
Will you be Doing Layered Microdosing at BudBerry?
We are not allowed to infuse items within the cafe just yet. The way that the city and state are making us start out is we have to work with either a restaurant or several restaurants nearby that can deliver food in. Then our business model is you can then infuse that food yourself with our culinary cannabis. So if you order a pizza you can then infuse it with the oregaNO. You can order a lemon chicken from next door and you can infuse it with our Rosemary Jane. So then you get a Rosemary lemon chicken.
They just don’t want us for whatever reason cooking with cannabis in the kitchens just yet. The first cannabis cafe that opened is serving non-infused food, But you’re able to smoke cannabis on premise while you’re enjoying your food and hanging out with your friends. It’s taking cannabis the way it’s consumed today and then pairing it with a meal that goes very well with the cannabis.
What are your favorite cannabis infused foods or recipes?
I’m so happy you asked. I’ve got a book of a hundred right now called The 420 Gourmet.I personally love the simplicity of infusion if I’m doing my own thing. I love to be able to use my culinary cannabis when I cook. My favorite food might be my mother’s meatloaf, right? It’s super simple for me to infuse that meatloaf and to actually have an amazing experience with that meatloaf because it’s been infused with my Rosemary Jane. I have a lot of favorite recipes. Apple Roses have been a favorite for a long time.
I’ve probably done about 4 or 5,000 of these little Apple roses. That’s on the sweet side. On the savory side, my hazy Thai wings are my own personal favorite and also my loaded Mac and cheese. The same way that you’d make a regular Mac and cheese using butter in your intro cheese sauce, I just happened to use my candid butter in that cheese sauce and it’s pretty awesome.
Can you tell us your one, five and 10 year cannabis industry predictions?
My one year prediction is that the groundswell of legalization is going to continue to move across the country.
Within five years I think not only the United States but other countries all over the world will be legal, at least for medical. I also feel that in the culinary space specifically and also in other areas, it’s going to become more mainstream
Do you Think There is a dark side to the cannabis Industry?
You won’t find bad things about cannabis, but you’ll find bad people around cannabis. People telling people how bad cannabis is contributing the the stigma. People continuing to outlaw it and telling lies about cannabis. People doing bad things in the market is what’s happening in the whole vaping world right now. Vaping, which was helping so many people is now being banned in States like Massachusetts. California is even considering a ban on vaping because some bad player decided to use certain chemicals or accelerants in their vapes so that when they combust and enter your lungs, they turn into a form of cyanide and they poison people and they kill people.
We’ve got like 1500 illnesses already associated with vaping, not only of cannabis but also tobacco products. In addition, these are products that are out in the illicit market. If the market were regulated and everything were tested across the board and if cannabis wasn’t taxed as highly as it is, you wouldn’t have these bad players out there that are making bad products that are harming and killing people.
As we move forward into this wonderful world of cannabis, we have to make sure that we do everything we can to make the industry a great place to exist. If the government’s going to continue to be greedy and tax it so highly that it becomes not affordable for many people there will be cheap black market alternatives. That gives the black market an opportunity to thrive and put product out there that could possibly harm people, which is happening right now.
I think we all have to work together to bring this plant into the mainstream properly. Regulate it properly and tax it properly so that we’re out there with products that helps people and that people can afford.
In the Future, are you Thinking of Making Products with Other Cannabinoids Besides THC?
Yeah. We’re looking into taking the exact same process that we’re using for our smokeables for people who want to smoke CBD pre-rolls. The reason why CBD pre-rolls right are not catching on is because they smell like weed when you smoke them. Imagine if you had a CBD pre-roll that didn’t smell like weed and that tasted like lavender or clove. We’re looking into it right now, but the challenge is finding the right CBD manufacturer to partner with on this.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
One thing that people should take away from this is that if you are going to be enjoying edibles or making edibles, specifically THC infused edibles, you’ve got to go really low dose and you’ve got to take it slow. It’s okay if your edible is one and a half for two or three milligrams. Know your limits and go low and slow
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