By Amelia Levin
From pop-ups to chef-catered parties, cooking with, ahem, pot is smokin’ right now. Indeed, the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” survey polling ACF chefs last year listed cannabis- and CBD-infused food and drink as the No. 1 and No. 2 top trends. The topic is getting so much traction as of late that this will be a key topic covered at both ChefConnect: Seattle and ChefConnect: Nashville. The ACF team also plans to host a symposium on cooking with cannabis and CBD in late May.
“A couple years ago, we knew there was a need to learn more about the cannabis space, so we began to educate ourselves on the subject,” says Michelle Whitfield, CFC, senior manager of culinary programs for ACF.
Since then, the ACF has partnered with a panel of chefs working in the cannabis space to help develop the curriculum and exam for what is now a new certification available to ACF members and non-members alike. To earn the Specialized Certificate in Culinary Cannabis and Edibles, students must study four resource books and then take and pass a 100-question, online exam.
“We understand that this is a controversial topic and there are stigmas, but we are approaching this from an educational perspective with a focus on safety as more chefs and culinarians enter this growing space,” says Jacqui Pressinger, ACF director of strategic partnerships. “Since cannabis is not federally legal, more states are legalizing its recreational use, so we want to be the gold standard when it comes to culinary professional development in this space, as we recognize that there are more savory chefs developing multi-course menus that include cannabis and THC as well as others getting into the edible business, especially with baked goods.”
The certificate does not include cannabis culinary training; rather, it focuses on educating chefs about proper handling and dosing of THC-laced ingredients as well as non-THC ingredients, such as hemp and CBD. The certificate also covers terpenes, which is the flavor component of cannabis, and the program is heavy on math, which is required for dosing as well as for extraction and other formulations involved in cooking with cannabis.
John C. Schopp CEC, CEPC, CCE, CCA, AAC, culinary instructor at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, Virginia was the first student to take the exam and pass (there are now three total certified). “I am proud and excited that the ACF has recognized the importance of providing education and a pathway to certify culinarians of all levels in the safe handling and ethical responsibility related to culinary cannabis and infused edibles,” says Schopp, who also serves as Chair of the ACF Certification Commission. “[The content] is challenging and comprehensive and I look forward to continued educational opportunities and advanced training around this topic. The ACF continues to deliver relevant and diverse education through multiple platforms, at a very high level. Certification through the ACF continues to provide employers a confident benchmark for differentiating potential new hires.”