Extracted Episode 6: Culinary Cannabis with Derek Simcik
With the first draft of edibles regulations now out in Canada, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look into the culinary world of cannabis. On our sixth episode of Extracted, we’re joined by Derek Simcik, Executive Chef of Scout and The Nest at the Thompson Hotel in Seattle.
Derek has received plenty of recognition over his career and has been featured by The New York Times, Kitchen Toke, and People Magazine. His restaurant, which has been ranked as one of the best in Seattle, has hosted several seven course dinners featuring cannabis-infused dishes. We were excited to chat with Derek about his mouth-watering process for cooking with cannabis. Needless to say, he has a lot of tasty insights to share.
Bringing cannabis to the table.
Derek admits the idea for hosting a cannabis dinner started out as a joke when he suggested at a marketing meeting that his restaurant should do a 420 dinner. To his surprise, the suggestion was met with a positive response, and the first seven course cannabis dinner was born.
“(The dinner) was able to merge two of my big passions, so it worked out at the end of the day. It’s kind of funny how things like that happen.”
In terms of the regulations for hosting a dinner like this, Derek admits it’s still more underground. With the current laws in Washington, there are no permits a business can get and cannabis is technically only allowed to be served in a private residence. So his dinners are hosted at a home that can accommodate 10-20 people. There can also be no money exchanged, so the dinners are by donation or by invite only.
Carefully curated dosing.
Derek insists these dinners are not about getting his guests stoned. The guests thus far have had varying degrees of cannabis experience so it’s important to take a measured approach for each course, similar to microdosing. Especially for those guests who are new to cannabis, Derek says, “You don’t want to scare them away, you’re trying to enlighten them,” and adds that it’s more of a “slow and steady” pace.
“You’re not couch-locked at the end of the meal. I want the guest to continue experiencing it and enjoying it.”
Choosing strains and finding balance.
As you can imagine, a lot of thought and preparation goes into planning these dinners. Key to this preparation is choosing which strains to incorporate into each dish, and whether to use an oil, flower or powder. Derek says it really comes down to “what works best for the dish and also the flow of the meal.” He likes to start and finish meals off with a CBD-forward strain for its more mellowing effects.
“There are so many effects. It really brings a 4th dimension to the meal.”
When it comes to cannabis flavour profiles for cooking, Derek keeps a “rolodex” of his favourite strains in his head. He prefers strains that are berry-forward with sweet floral or citrus notes but again, it depends on the dish. In some cases, he treats the cannabis flower like a wine and pairs accordingly. “Because a lot of flowers that are coming out nowadays have such high terpene flavour profiles, their smell, their aroma is so strong. It’s so definite, like a wine.”
“I love the cannabis industry and I’ve always been very intrigued with the different flowers and flavour profiles that are out there.”
Good home cooking.
Derek says the recent advancements in science and the information available to consumers is making culinary cannabis more fool-proof and approachable. So what advice does he have for the at-home chef who wants to start cooking with cannabis? His biggest advice, which has become a recurring theme on this podcast, is to “start slow, take it easy.” He says beginners are bound to make mistakes and it’s best to begin with microdosing. With proper ratios and techniques, the possibilities are endless, “it doesn’t just have to be chocolate chip cookies or brownies anymore.”
The future of culinary cannabis.
Derek has certainly seen a shift in the growing popularity of edibles in the Pacific Northwest. He says the majority of the market is still focused on the sweeter side of things with less focus on the savoury side, especially when it comes to retail. Derek expects to see this continue to evolve as the industry matures, “I think you’ll see more of these elevated dinners.” Count us in for a seat at the table.
“Right now the sky’s the limit because it is still so new and all this is based off regulations in each market…And I say ‘push it as far as you can in your market’ because that’s the only way you’re going to continue to change the industry.”
Listen to the full episode for more details on cooking with cannabis.