Chef Travis Petersen, also known as the Nomad Cook, is one of Canada’s up-and-coming chefs- he made the top 20 in season 3 of Masterchef Canada and cooked for Vancouver’s Dinner in the Sky in 2017- and he’s bringing a 6-course THC-infused dinner to Vancouver this 4/20 weekend with his colleague, Chef Evan Elman.
CLN interviewed him on everything from pans to potheads, his inspiration for this cannabis-infused fine dining experience, what he’ll be up to at 4:20 on 4/20, and how chefs feel about the delay on legalizing edibles.
You’ll also find out what a Pistachio Chocolate Blunt is, whether the Chef recommends coming to the dinner stoned or not, and a promo code at the very end to save you some money on your ticket.
Cannabis Life Network: Can you tell me a little about the Nomad Cook and what you do?
Chef Travis: The Nomad Cook is a private chef agency, and we take celebrity and private chefs and give them a platform to work outside of your typical restaurant- that means we do in-home group cooking lessons, private dinner parties, and pop-up dinners.
We do a wide range of any sort of style- whether it’s vegan, pescetarian, KINO diet, Asian, or cannabis. As a chef, I’d been waiting for cannabis legalization to come around to start launching cannabis pop-up dinners, but when I noticed the Herbal Chef come up, I realized it was time and I wasn’t going to wait anymore considering all of the exposure he got in the Georgia Straight and local news all over the place.
I thought, “The time is now”.
So for the Vancouver 4/20 weekend, I’ve teamed up with another chef, Chef Evan Elman from Dinner in the Sky, and he and I are going to do a pop-up underground restaurant.
We’re hosting 6 seatings a day of 10 people, and we’re doing a 6-course fine dining THC-infused dinner, and then I’ll be taking this across the country. Right now, I’m booked in Victoria and Kelowna in May on two separate weekends, and in June, I’ll be doing Calgary and Edmonton. That’s as far as I’ve planned at the moment.
No, I actually met Evan through a Chef group on Facebook, and he helped me out with a bunch of different events, and so when I got the executive chef position at Dinner in the Sky, Evan was my sous chef. After I left, he became executive chef and he’s still working with them now.
Evan’s a fine dining chef and he’s done a bunch of cannabis-infused pop up dinners and that’s why it made sense to team up on this together.
What approach are you taking to this cannabis dinner?
I kind of looked at what the Herbal Chef was doing, and I felt his price points were fairly high and I also thought doing a massive dinner like that might intimidate a lot of people.
I think there’s a lot of people out there who want to experience this but they don’t want to do it in a large setting with 60-70 people so we’re offering that intimate, in-home dining experience where you may sit with 8 other people you don’t know.
We’re trying to offer the sort of intimate atmosphere that makes for an optimum dining experience.
What kind of response have you gotten so far?
The response I’ve gotten in the 8 or 9 days since posting it on Facebook has been crazy! It’s the most traffic I’ve had through my website and social media.
Does this event seem to be getting the most attention out of anything you’ve done so far?
Well I did Dinner in the Sky last year and I was on Masterchef Canada, so I’ve had some big exposure moments, but for consistent everyday traffic, yeah, the response to this THC-infused event has been huge.
The great thing about social media is the analytics you get, and it’s just a great marketing tool.
I feel like if you just go out and talk to people, the idea of a cannabis dinner is really cool- especially to get outside of the typical gummy, rice crispy, and brownie edible- and see what it would be like to infuse cannabis with fine dining.
We’ve got some great sponsors with Moonrock Canada being our big sponsor and Farm and Florist having donated as well. There are some other people that have recently reached out so I’ve got some calls to make later today.
So you’re doing the launch of this pop-up cannabis dining concept on 4/20 in downtown Vancouver?
Yeah because 4/20 fell on a Friday. We started off thinking we’d just do it for 4/20 Friday, but then we figured why not just do it all the way through, so now we’re doing it all weekend- we’ve even got a 3-course brunch option in the mornings!
It’s an 80-90 minute dining experience and diners can come in and enjoy. We’ve got some infused wines from Holy Grail and it will be really cool and I’m very excited to get this going.
What will you be doing at 4:20 on 4/20?
Well, I’ll have just wrapped up a 2:30 seating at 4:00 so for myself, I’ll probably be enjoying a little bit of cannabis and smoking a Pom Pom outside or something.
Cannabis will be legalized sometime later this year, but edibles aren’t slated to be legalized by 2019 at the earliest. How do you and other chefs feel about this?
There’s a reason why we’re starting this in Vancouver, and in BC. It’s because with the culture and society here, let’s be honest, cannabis has been legal for the last 5 years.
So we aren’t doing a dining experience where we bring people in and I’m getting them fucked up- we want them to come in and enjoy themselves, and then they leave feeling good.
It’s not just about the food with cannabis in it, it’s about the whole experience- the food, the music, the vibe, the people you’re getting to meet… It’s about all of that.
This is sort of a tester and I’m really looking to see how the market responds to it. I’ve done pop-ups where I’ve taken over an entire restaurant and it’s fully open to the public, but this one is different- it’s a private event and we have an intimate setting.
I’ve noticed in your promo materials you don’t mention the location. Is it being kept secret?
Yeah, we’re going to let our guests know beforehand. We’ll email them a few days before with the address and time to show up, and there will be a hostess there to take them in.
So it retains that underground popup feel?
Yes. It’s an underground restaurant. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Netflix documentary 42 Grams? It’s about a chef in Chicago who ran a restaurant out of his apartment for a few years before he opened a restaurant that got 2 Michelin stars in its first year.
So along with that and the Herbal Chef, I was really inspired to do this.
Is every item on the menu THC-infused?
We’re infusing THC and CBD, but just a little bit, you know? With our espresso-rubbed duck, we’re pairing it with an infused wine, and it’s all about slowly building up.
We’ll be sending out waivers to all of our guests, asking them what their tolerance to cannabis is on a scale of 1 to 5, and anyone who is fairly new to it we’ll make sure to keep the dosage down.
So you’re going to be personalizing and customizing your dishes, to a certain extent, to each guest?
Yes. Everyone’s getting the same food, and because much of the infusion is in the sauces we use, or the wine, it’s easier to control how much we put in.
Do you have a personal favourite on the menu?
Yeah, our first dish, the “Smoke and Amuse”.
It’s smoked salmon, and essentially what we’re doing is taking liquid nitrogen into a wine glass and freezing it to a point where we can pipe the smoke into the glass so it will stay like fog, and you can almost drink the smoke.
We’ll have a piece of smoked Haida Gwaii salmon incorporated into that over the glass.
How are you infusing THC into your dishes- are you using tinctures or infused sauces and glazes?
Yeah, it’s mostly glazes and sauces, so it’s more of a finishing touch.
Are you also doing a 3-course brunch?
Yes, that will be Saturday and Sunday morning. We’re doing an infused yogurt with granola and fresh fruit, crab cakes, and eggs benedict with an infused hollandaise sauce, and we’re finishing it off with a nice chocolate and strawberry banana crepe. There will also be mimosas.
Are these meals more for seasoned cannabis connoisseurs or the cannabis curious?
I think, long-term, cannabis dining is more for the hardcore smoker, but I think there are a lot of people who are curious and want to know what it’s like and I think we’re getting a wide range of people coming and that’s why we’re gauging how much cannabis each person consumes on a daily basis.
For the dessert, you’ve got a “Pistachio Chocolate Blunt”- can you tell me what that is?
Have you ever seen those Italian cookies? They’re those long, soft cylinders, and we’re going to make them look like a blunt. The salted caramel tart will be the ashtray and we’re going to put some lemon ash on it.
Do you recommend people come a little stoned or should they arrive sober?
That’s up to the person and how often they consume cannabis. I would recommend that anybody who’s new or doesn’t consume a lot to probably come sober. If you’re a person like me who smokes daily, I would smoke before coming.
The food will be top notch and even without the cannabis infusion, the food is still worth every penny. As well, we’ll probably have a little swag bag from our sponsors for all our guests. Everyone will get some edibles and Moonrock pre-rolls so they’ll have that to look forward to when they leave.
Are you going to be offering any wine pairings with the meal or is the THC-infused cuisine the main star?
No, we’re not. We’re offering wine with the one dish, but because of the current situation with edibles legality, our number one priority is the safety of our guests and that includes after they leave, and that’s why we decided on no alcohol.
Because mixing weed and alcohol can have some strong effects.
Exactly. I’ve connected with some cannabis chefs in the states, and once legalization fully rolls around, or even now, with myself, people are looking to have this experience, maybe at their own home with a group of their friends, and this is going to be something that the Nomad Cook will be offering up.
I think this will become a real big part of the Nomad Cook and there’s already huge excitement for it and I think everyone will want to try this.