Gourmet Cannabis: An Interview with a Molecular Chef
Oct 23, 2014, Articles and Insight
We all know you can eat cannabis, but how does it all work? Sure we can drop some leaves into a stick of butter, simmer it for an hour, and put it on toast, but there’s a whole world of cannabis connoisseur edible confections that only a handful of cooks are gifted to know. One such chef is Sean Kelley, a patient at Green Dream Health Services. Sean is an executive chef and general manager of a local company to remain undisclosed for discretion purposes. On his free time, he makes delicious and picturesque hand-crafted cannabis-infused meals, snacks, and desserts. I caught up with him earlier this month to find out just how he is able to concoct such amazing food out of his favorite strains at Green Dream.
Richard Klassen: What is a molecular chef?
Sean Kelley: The focus of a molecular chef is understanding the physical and chemical transformation of food utilizing science to better create an optimum method to convey a dish. We use scientific principals to create methodology that allows us to create new flavors and techniques. This can be as simple as utilizing liquid nitrogen on a scored duck breast to ensure proper rendering of fat, to utilizing slow cook methods to highlight a dish such as a sous vide egg at 63 degrees Celsius. The artistic element is more in presentation. We tend to lean more on the artistic side of plating dishes.
R: How long have you been cooking with cannabis?
S: Really seriously for the last nine months. Moving back to Colorado allowed me the ability to experiment without the fear of prosecution.
R: Do you use any special tools to gauge the cannabis you use?
S: Without having GC (gas chromatography) available I use accurate measurements with concentrations as well as molds that are consistent, as well as a lot of research and development. Having a dispensary where I can see lab results at least gives you a place to start. When making sweets I will always start with a lab tested product– typically glycerine tincture. It took me a while to find the proper decarboxylation temperature for kief but through trial and error I was able to come to a scientific conclusion to best convert THCa to THC. Utilizing lab testing allows you to see terpene content and THC/CBD content to best plan a use for any certain strain.
R: What is decarboxylation?
S: Decarbing is the process of gently applying heat to convert THCa to THC. I use a toaster oven, a sealed ceramic ramekin in a water filled pyrex dish, and a remote temperature controller to ensure consistent temperatures.
R: What is the difference between cooking with flowers or buds, concentrates (shatter) and kief?
S: I don’t use shatter often. My typical is flower and kief. Flower to me has a much more intimate relationship with savory foods. Infusing oils and butter allow you to keep the non-volatile terpenes together allowing for a resemblance to that strain; to be able to say, “There’s that piney fruity aspect of that strain!” Kief is great for controlling the experience. Just decarbing kief for 10 more minutes than normal has a more narcotic effect and 10 minutes less will have a more energizing effect. The most important aspect is quality to start. Anything wrong in the growing process will be much more evident in the end result. Improperly flushed or cured flowers will impact the overall result dramatically and no one likes tasting hash for their entire meal.
R: Do you find a better product with ‘decarbed’ or raw cannabis?
S: Raw cannabis has its benefits in terpenes but if cannabinoids are your goal it has to find a delivery method. The cell walls in our body will not accept raw cannabis nearly as easy as it will with something introduced to the body like alcohol, glycerine, or oil. All of these additives have the ability to carry it through our bodies. I use raw for infused oils where they are in the sous vide machine for a week at minimum at 70-80 degrees and gradually up to 110 degrees in final stages. The conversion can be more controlled than a straight decarb’ in the oven.
R: What obstacles or challenges do you face creating savory edibles as opposed to sweet ones?
S: Sweet to me is the tougher of the two. I’m not a fan of the high sugar-laden items on the market now. I’ve had to play with recipes to find the potency and taste that I prefer. With savory edibles I find a blank canvas that can be used to highlight the food as most infusions can be applied to both baking and savories. While coconut oil is preferred, I have found success with olive, grape-seed and avocado as well.
R: How do you make your spaghetti dish?
S: This dish was infused in multiple aspects. The spaghetti is a basil-arugula agar agar spaghetti which had decarboxylated kief in it, highlighted by the infused olive oil on the tomatoes with housemade burrata and balsamic vinegar pearls. In this application adding soy lecithin allows the bioavailability of the kief and oil to be further carried with the lipids found in the cheese to help absorption in the body.
R: Do sativa and indica effects come out after cooking?
S: To me the sativa high is more enduring although not as strong. The indica typically is a great sleep aid. I will take a indica-based edible right before sleep and it seems to help on those nights I’m too amped-up after work to fall asleep.
R: What particular strains have you found to be successful in the kitchen?
S: Currently I am a fan of Blue Dream for my oils. Tangerine Haze and Tangerine OG are a great infusion. On the sweets side I have found the Pre ’98 Bubba Kush as a great dosable nighttime edible. I just did a batch of gummies with [Green Dream's] Tahoe Berry Cookies kief and it has a nice balance of muscle relaxation and a bit of pep. It’s becoming a fave’ on fishing trips. The chem and skunk flavors come through from time to time a bit more than I prefer though.
R: Do you know what attributes of the bud make those fuel-like flavors stand out?
S: [The terpenes] a-Pinene and a-Humulene would be my assumption as they seem to be prevalent in most samples I’ve seen test results on. I assume those terps’ are the reason because THC has a lower boiling point than either of those main terpenes by 60 degrees for a-Pinene and 140+ for Humulene. Humulene is also that hoppy smell found in beer. The method of growing seems to change the terpene development in the flowering stage of growth.
R: Does a long clean-water flush before harvesting make a difference? At Green Dream we ensure all organic additives and fertilizers are out of the finished product.
S: One of the major reasons I switched to Green Dream was the quality and that attention to detail. Burping my jars is a pleasurable experience now.
When I followed up with Mr. Kelley to make corrections and edits to the interview he interjected with his latest weekend “medible” project . You can learn more about cooking with cannabis by actively searching forums on the internet, asking your Green Dream budtender, or simply experimenting on your own with your favorite Green Dream flowers, strain-specific kief, and concentrates.