Among the wide range of jobs available in the rapidly growing cannabis industry, working as a cannabis chef, pastry chef (patissier), or chocolate maker (chocolatier) remains one of the most attracive options for many people. Cooking for others is honorable work that can be quite lucrative, and since everyone has to eat, there will always be demand. The field of culinary arts is expanding at a steady pace, so it’s only natural that cannabis cooking should find a niche market.
To get started with cannabis cooking, most people will desire input and advice from others who are masters of the craft. Unfortunately, regardless of all the mainstream culinary schools, there isn’t yet one specifically for cannabis cooking. What does exist, though, is a growing number of cannabis cooking classes in various cities, and hopefully yours is one of them. Just about every major city in one of the legal recreational states offers them these days, and usually local marijuana tourism businesses are a great place to discover them. Often these are classes offered by cannabis retail stores or established restaurant chefs who have an interest in cannabis.
Employment with a Cannabis Kitchen
Finding a job as a cannabis chef or baker usually occurs in one of two common ways. The first is gaining employment with an established infused edibles company or a cannabis company that makes its own infused edible products. Usually, this is a 9-to-5, 40-hours-per-week position where you will start at the entry level and learn based on company protocol, using specific recipes. In this role, you will shadow tenured employees to learn the ropes.
Most commercially available infused edibles sold in retail stores are sweets, usually baked goods, chocolates, or candy. While some stores carry products created by their state’s leading edibles brands, others make their own. Whether you work on the wholesale or retail side of this market, the work is largely the same. Most cannabis kitchens have assigned positions for creating their confections, meaning that some staff members work with baked good, while others work as chocolatiers or other candy makers. To excel in this area, you must have talent for producing these items. We all know that bakers are not created equally—and if you’ve ever tried to recreate grandma’s famous cake or cookie recipes, you probably know what I mean. Some people are masters, while others struggle to make anything palatable. Some bakers and chefs elevate their work to an art form. Whether or not you fall into this category will become apparent over time. Since working on a cannabis kitchen staff is specialized, the various positions often pay more than retail budtenders or cultivation workers make.
Savory cannabis cuisine definitely takes a backseat in the world of cannabis retail products, but there is an increasing market for these foods, so they will most likely become more common in the future.
Becoming a Cannabis Chef
The route to becoming a true cannabis chef who creates his or her own savory dishes for special dinner guests and cooking class participants is a longer process with a less direct path. Most true cannabis chefs apprenticed in well-known restaurant kitchens and often attended and graduated from a national culinary institution. The cannabis part of their occupation came later, after they mastered the skills of traditional mainstream cooking.
Graduates of culinary institutes usually seek employment with a prestigious restaurant. As a member of the kitchen staff, the ultimate goal of many is to become an Executive Chef, the individual who directs the rest of the kitchen staff and creates the menu and daily specials. It can take decades of dedicated work to attain this lofty goal. There are numerous other specialized chefs who work in the culinary arts. These include Sous Chef, who supports the Executive Chef and oversees and engage in food preparation; Station Chef (Chef de Partie), who is in charge of a special area of the kitchen, such as the grill; Pastry Chef (Chef Patissier), who creates pastries—a great choice for those who enjoy working with cannabis; Fish Chef (Poissonier), who specializes in fish dishes; Vegetable Chef (Entremetier), who cooks with vegetables; and Sauce Chef (Saucier), who creates sauces.
If you plan to hone your skills as a chef who later branches off into cannabis creations, it will take some time to attain your goal. First and foremost, you must love to cook and be a member of a kitchen staff. The cannabis part will come later.
If you are already a chef and want to establish yourself as a known cannabis chef, you must market yourself. One way is to start a side business that creates private cannabis dinner parties. This avocation is already in demand, and cannabis dinner parties are somewhat cutting edge among trendsetters.
Another way for an established chef to work with cannabis is to hold special cannabis cooking classes (“Cooking with Cannabis 101”). You can pitch your idea to various cannabis businesses or cannabis tourism companies. Considering the high level of competition among cannabis companies, many of them are looking for ways to set themselves apart, and cannabis cooking classes would be a unique service that most companies do not offer.
Commercial Infused Ingredients
An increasing number of companies are taking much of the work out of cooking with cannabis by selling their own prepared cannabis-infused cooking ingredients, like cannabis olive oil. Unfortunately, these companies are limited to distribution and sales within their own states. Until the federal government chooses to legalize recreational cannabis on a national level, each legal marijuana state is an island that operates by its own code and set of rules.
Another option when it comes to cannabis-infused cooking ingredients is to make your own. There are online recipes for creating cooking ingredients, whether it’s cannabutter or infused oil. Many skilled chefs would prefer to make their own ingredients anyway.
Recipes, Cookbooks, and Successful Chefs
There are numerous sites online with myriad recipes containing cannabis. With so many cannabis-infused edibles geared for those with a sweet tooth, some recipe sites cater specifically to desserts and candies. A number of successful cannabis cookbooks have hit the bookstore shelves, and this is another way to gather ideas and inspiration for cooking with cannabis.
The list of successful cannabis chefs who made a name for themselves before entering the world of cannabis is long and growing. While many of them dabble in it as an avocation or hobby, clearly there is a strong interest among chefs to delve into a different realm of cooking, and many of them see a commercial viability with this type of cooking.
Becoming a cannabis chef is not a fantasy anymore. It’s becoming increasingly mainstream, so if this is your dream occupation, there are a variety of ways to make it a reality. Like any successful chef, expect to put in long hours as you sharpen your skills and come up with a comprehensive plan to make this career profitable. Cannabis cuisine is cutting edge and progressive. Plan now to become a part of it!