As marijuana consumers become savvier and are offered more choices, many are turning to edibles as a preferred method of consumption. In fact, edibles are taking Canada and the United States by storm; with spending exceeding $1 billion in 2017 and projected to triple that within the next five years, according to market research from ArcView and BDS Analytics.
In California alone, the edibles market will be worth $1.3 billion by 2022, meaning it could make up nearly 20 percent of the state’s total marijuana sales. As more consumers turn to edibles, more and more jobs for cannabis chefs are opening up as a result.
High-end edibles enter the market
Medical cannabis patients are seeking alternatives to smoking cannabis, and cannabis chefs deliver by infusing everything from savory dishes to sweets like cakes and candies. Cooking with cannabis is a creative art as well as an exact science, as specific doses of cannabis, oils, and concentrates are measured out in compliance with state laws. Chefs want to create edible experiences in which the patron consumes just the right amount of cannabis without going overboard for a bad experience.
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THC-infused edibles are particularly challenging to a chef since it takes great culinary skill to mask the sharp taste.
For example, the Mint Dispensary in Tempe, Arizona opened the first U.S. restaurant dedicated to cannabis-infused edibles. Opening its doors in October 2018, The Mint offers dine-in and take-out options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all to card-carrying medicinal cannabis patients. The restaurant offers salads, tacos, pizza, and a variety of baked goods, as well as everything from coffee to gelato. Items are available in customized doses starting at 10mg and up.
The Mint’s executive chef, Carylann Principal, is a classically trained chef as well as a cancer survivor. She explains that it is important to understand the flavors of various cannabis strains and how they can pair well with foods to meet the complex nutritional needs of Arizona’s patients.
Arizona’s edibles boom
Arizona is a microcosm example of the edibles boom in the United States. Arizona legalized medical cannabis nearly a decade ago and had experienced a steady rise in card-carrying patients. The number currently tops 170,000 and is quickly rising. Last year, the state sold over 400 pounds of cannabis edibles.
Both the industry and edibles sector continue to evolve exponentially as chefs rush to fill an unmet need of medical patients. While qualified chefs are hard to find, a good one can earn a six-figure income.
Many restaurants across the country have followed Principal’s lead.
Los Angeles’ top cannabis chef, Christopher Sayegh, founded The Herbal Chef. Sayegh says he had been misinformed and lied to about cannabis and once he began to research it himself, he became a huge proponent. His catering business provides CBD-infused meals to medical patients, and he hopes to open his own restaurant soon. Sayegh offers gourmet cuisine with 10 to 15 mg THC with menu items like smoked salmon with poached strawberries.
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Things are cooking in Chicago as well, as award-winning (to the tune of James Beard) pastry chef Mindy Segal brings 30 years’ experience in Michelin-starred restaurants to her line of artisanal edibles. Segal offers high-quality chocolates infused with 50 or 100 mg doses, as well as fruit chews and hard candies like brittle.
Other creative chefs are doing amazing things with cannabis. San Francisco-based chef Stephanie Hua created a line of low-dose cannabis-infused marshmallows, and her San Fran counterpart Michael Magallanes creates glazes from cannabis powder and coconut oil.
Segal sees everyone from individual chefs to large corporations trying to get in on the cannabis edibles market. She likens it to the Wild West, with everyone racing to stake their claims. One thing is certain — as chefs begin to meld their incredible cooking talents with their medical advocacy for cannabis — edibles have far surpassed the stereotypical pot brownie.