For cannabis cravers, the only thing better than gourmet food, is gourmet food infused with cannabis. There was a day in the recent past, when a weed edible was a treat that you or someone you knew had to make at home – something that could, and often did, go sideways.

A “bad experience” with edibles is a common story.

With the legalization of marijuana, however, we’ve seen the elevation of the cannabis edible – and well beyond that of your basic dispensary gummy. Now, trained and celebrated chefs and esteemed food producers are creating quality eats, with cannabis as a not-so-secret ingredient. And we’re definitely not complaining.

Toronto’s Chef Adrian Niman, founder and owner of the beloved Food Dudes hospitality group – a local industry leader that features innovative catering, food trucks, restaurants (Rasa, Sara, Clay, Pantry, Blondies), and culinary experiences – has recently ventured into the cannabis space with a partnership with premium cannabis brand Olli. Created to offer a thoughtfully curated and healthy way to consume cannabis, Olli will soon sell weed-infused strawberry fruit chews, chocolate hemp crunch bars, and butter cookies  – all made in-house at the company’s state-of-the-art facility in Etobicoke, Ontario.

“I have been a passionate and active user of medicinal cannabis for over half my life. Having the ability to combine food and cannabis is a dream come true for me,” said Niman of his professional move into the cannabis space. The award-winning and Michelin-starred restaurant-trained chef knew producing cannabis-infused food would involve different style of creating than what he was used to – and would be a far cry from how he was trained at the prestigious Reads Hotel in Mallorca, Spain.

“The most important component of creating an edible is stability;

our products need a six-month shelf life,” said Niman. “Coming from a fine dining background, this was a big challenge for me. Another hurdle was that we wanted to keep using natural ingredients, but have to ensure our products were also consistent throughout their shelf life.” After months of product development, the right recipe was reached, and we can expect to see Olli products roll out across Canada this summer.

Like Niman, Toronto chef Lida-Tuy Dinh – who goes by Bomb Nomz on Instagram – had been an avid cannabis user for 14 years before she began incorporating the green goodness into her culinary creations through her edibles company, The Baker’s Shop. Four years ago, the George Brown culinary grad was offered the opportunity to bake for someone who wanted to combine his cannabis extract with her skills. “I was in shock this was happening. How lucky,” said Dinh.” We then entered a local farmer’s type market only for cannabis brands. The rest is history.”

Dinh has since turned cannabis consumption into an entire experience with colourful, sensory-filled dinner parties. “At my cannabis-infused dinners, guests can expect a friendly sliding scale of THC available, no pressure to consume it all, virgin options available, intimacy, and familiarity,” said Dinh. “I always want guests to enjoy their infused dinner in comfort and ease, as cannabis inherently has the ability to overwhelm the senses. They experience a simple menu, focusing on seasonality and flavour profiles falling just slightly out of the box.” The multi-course dinner parties in the past have included things like a cannabis-infused sweet beet salad, poutine, pork loin, and roast peach.

What attracted Dinh to the challenge of cooking with cannabis was the element of bravery involved. “I had dreamed about combining cannabis and food since I was 16, and even pondered if making edibles would ever be a viable job,” said Dinh. “I jumped at the chance to do this because it was a fantasy.  I didn’t realize as a young high school student that I would later become so passionate about the activism that came along with cannabis use, since it only recently became legal.”

With the legalization of cannabis throughout Canada and the subsequent erosion of its long-held stigma, it’s safe to say that there’s a growing market for edibles, as the canna-curious discover or rediscover marijuana and its multiple benefits. Culinary entrepreneur Sébastien Centner – the move-maker behind Toronto event and catering company Eatertainment and One-Eighty restaurant – grew interested in the cannabis industry upon recognizing this growing curiosity among his 40-something peers.

His vision was to elevate the edible and redefine culinary cannabis consumption. Moving past the basic cannabis-infused sweet treat, Centner joined forces with Frédéric Naggar, owner of Toronto-based dessert manufacturer Delysees, to take the edible to fancier, more delectable heights with the creation of Hervé edibles.

“All the edible products I was seeing were very generic;

there was chocolate, candies, and gummies and the quality those products shared was that they weren’t great tasting and were only a delivery mechanism for the cannabis,” said Centner. “They are not something that you would otherwise consume; the only reason you are is because you’re getting the cannabis. I realized that people were going to start to desire products that fit into their pre-existing lifestyle.” The goal, said Centner, was to create a product that people were already consuming cannabis-free in their lives. “That lead me to luxury desserts. The category didn’t exist in the cannabis world. But luxury dessert is a big market,” he said.

Hervé launched south of the border in Nevada this past Valentine’s Day, with an assortment of delicate and delicious macarons handmade in the French tradition. They’re available in three flavours; raspberry, chocolate, and salted caramel. The gluten-free treats each contain 10 milligrams of a sativa hybrid premium THC distillate and are packaged in a box of three macarons of the same flavour.

“I may be biased, but they are the best macarons you’ll ever taste,” said Centner. “They’re not as sweet as typical maracons, which often have that sort of sickening sweet taste and too much sugar.” Centner needed to source a THC that was on the same premium level as the other raw ingredients, opting for the high-grade distillate. “This is the champagne of cannabis extracts,” he says. The distillate is free of terpenes, which means you won’t taste the cannabis when indulging in the dreamy macarons.

According to Centner, consumers can expect a slow onset of 45 minutes to an hour. “It doesn’t hit you all at once; it’s a slow progression of over 15 to 20 minutes. You feel great, everything is accentuated and it lasts about 4 to 5 hours,” he said. The next step for the company is individual and bite-size desserts.

It’s safe to say that is just the beginning the gourmet edible scene in North America – something that’s reflected in both the perpetual innovation from cannabis brands and the incorporation of cannabis in event culture (well, in pre-COVID times, at least). Naturally, the innovations in the cannabis industry are fuelled by the growing wider acceptance of cannabis in consumers of all ages.

“Right now, I’m very much enjoying the freedom in communities sharing edible creations through social media; you really can see it all if you search hard enough. Workshops and cooking lessons in proper cannabis infusions are very accessible now as well,” said Dinh. “What’s most intriguing to me, is that we will eventually be seeing which model recreational facilities will be provided to serve consumers.”

In the meantime, Canada’s growing number of dispensaries aren’t hurting for business. Figures released in December 2019 reveal that Canadians spent $908-million on legal cannabis in its first year of legalization. “I believe the opportunities are endless, and I’m most excited about switching the way people think about cannabis,” says Niman. “There are so many more benefits with this flower compared to alcohol. Micro dosing cannabis through edible use is truly a remarkable remedy.”

Cover photo: Hervé


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