Taking the ferry to Vancouver Island from the mainland had become a regular routine over the long lockdown winter of the global pandemic. My wife and I spent a lot of time on Quadra Island, the Comox Valley and in Victoria patiently waiting for restrictions to ease so I could get back to doing what I love; traveling & cooking for strangers. Having just discovered my true passion in the last five years, to have it all taken away briefly sure put things into perspective and I knew once summer came I would seize the moment and maximize every day. That day had come, June 1st 2021; The start of the Gourmandize Tour. The tour would be featured in an article by Leafly, laying out the path we were about to embark on.
The Gourmandize Tour started in Courtenay, British Columbia, on a beautiful hot sunny day perched atop a wooden patio set along the Courtenay River. We had 12 guests attend to officially kick off this cross country tour, without the support of Twisted Extracts it wouldn’t have been possible. The Gourmandize Tour would feature their newest product; The Take & Bake, an activated RSO oil that is dispensed in 2 mg increments, which was featured in my third course of the menu (N’duja Lobster with Creamy Miso Grits, Infused Chimichurri and Corn Nut Crumbs). YAM magazine’s summer issue released in the first week of June with a great article on the tour and certification program.
After Courtenay I drove down the New Island Highway to the capital of British Columbia, Victoria. There I would host 2 dinners for 12 people for the tour & kick off a new partnership with Russell Hendrix, The Culinary Cannabis Certification workshop, which we would host 21 times across the country at each one of their showrooms. As much as the Gourmandize tour was about cooking for people, the real focus was this partnership with Russell Hendrix. By having a well respected culinary company acknowledge the importance of education when it comes to culinary cannabis, we were able to grab the attention of the national media, our culinary institutions and Health Canada.
My goal with this course was to encourage more Canadian culinary professionals to start working with this magical ingredient. The key to serving a success infused dinner, is to be 100% confident in your extractions. To be 100% confident in your extractions you need to have safety procedures in place to ensure your math is correct and the methods you’re using are correct for the desired application of your extraction. No longer is the goal to get as high as you can off the corner of the brownie; the goal is terpene development with strong delicious flavors and aromas. Our first workshop was held at the Camosun College Interurban Campus, with 6 culinary professionals and Yvonne Raymond with CTV Victoria. To have the media there on day 1 would be the spark to ignite the excitement of what was possible in the weeks to come.
Before I knew it, the Island portion of the tour was over and I was on the ferry heading back to the city where it all began; Vancouver. Without Vancouver and the west coast lifestyle I’m not sure we’d have legal cannabis today. The generations before us who championed the accessibility of this plant to all, fought an uphill battle with determination and a belief that the stigmas built around cannabis were false. I look at someone like Seth Rogen, who’s a Vancouver native, and aim to have that high of a conviction for breaking those stigmas and proving that 70 years of propaganda has molded society’s mind to think a certain way about cannabis. In Vancouver we would have 56 guests attend the dinners over a 4 night period, which was made a little tricky with gathering restriction limits. Normally I would serve 40 to 50 people at once, but for this tour I was going to have to do multiple seatings, with many dinners being held outdoors. Before leaving Vancouver, we would host our 2nd and 3rd workshops, with one being held at Vancouver Community College for the faculty and the other held at Russell Hendrix’s beautiful showroom just outside of the downtown core.
The feeling of having dozens of guests sit at your table after a long extended break of not being able to work was exhilarating. I missed the funny conversations that happen as the dinner progresses and the ease of serving a group of people who are cannabis enthusiasts. Seeing familiar faces who’ve attended pop ups in the past, was a comforting feeling and
With the Island and Vancouver now behind us, the real adventure was about to begin. To make this tour happen we needed an RV and thanks to Twisted Extracts, we had one from Cana-Dream RV’s. I love giving my vehicles names, and this RV would be no different; Twisted Terry it was dubbed and Kelowna bound we were. Our time in the Okanagan would be split between 1 workshop, 2 dinners and my birthday. We started off with the workshop being held at Vice and Virtue, a craft brewer with a beautiful home base and friendly staff. With 14 attendee’s and a cameraman from Global National, all eyes were on us.
After the workshop, my wife and I took a small break and headed to Penticton and Oliver for a couple days of fun in the sun. On June 17th, my 37th birthday, we spent the morning Jet-Skiing around Okanagan Lake, followed by the most amazing meal at Phantom Creek Winery. Their executive chef, Chef Sarah Fiore, is someone I’ve followed on social media for a while and was really excited to finally try her food. And boy did she ever deliver! We ordered the whole menu, it was everything I wanted it to be and more. The stand out was a Cured Trout dish with cucumbers, duck yolk caramel, house XO and cilantro.
A year older and a head of hair definitely a tad more silver, I was ready to get back to the Gourmandize. Another news feature in The Vancouver Sun was a great surprise in the morning paper, giving just a little bit more confidence that this journey was making a difference. Thankfully, with BC moving its outdoor gathering restrictions, we were able to host 20 people each night, with one of my favorite groups from Spiritleaf West Kelowna attending. What makes a dispensary something special? The staff does and there’s no better shop than that Spiritleaf right there. We cooked and dined next to the river under magnificent willow trees with bistro lights sparkling in the branches. The weather was gracious and we only got a splash of rain during the final seating’s dessert course.
Sunday morning, June 20th, we packed up Twisted Terry early and hit the road to host 2 dinners in Revelstoke and Golden in a 12 hour time span. Note to self, the time zone change happens between Revelstoke and Golden…. NOT after Golden! We rolled into Revy just after lunch and set up in our clients backyard. With the heat beating down, we continued to be blessed with amazing weather. A quick flip and repack and we were back on the Trans Canada highway heading to Golden. With 16 guests attending that night, it was hilarious and amazing to see all 16 guests roll in on their bicycles. Small towns are where it is at and this dinner would be one of my favorites for the whole tour. Set up alongside the Columbia River with the sun setting over the mountains, I couldn’t help but smirk with appreciation. I had really missed cooking for strangers.
We would wrap up BC with one last small town stop, Fernie. Nestled away in the Kootenays, it would be my first visit to this breathtaking town, that in the winter time would be bursting with skiers and snowboarders alike. The mountain ranges surrounding our campsite made us feel so grateful that things were working out. It was hard to believe that within 3 weeks we had cooked for 156 people and held 4 workshops for 41 culinary professionals and that the BC leg of the Gourmandize tour was complete. What was to come would be one of the hardest 9 day stretches of cooking I would ever do. A heat wave, a broken RV and a less than desirable AirBnB in Edmonton would lay the tracks for part 2 of the Gourmandize.
To be continued…