Justin Snyder has traveled around the world, learning from the best culinary schools and Michelin star chefs, and now he’s bringing his expertise to the cannabis world at this weekend’s Cannabis Cup Chef Competition.
“I only make food I’d eat myself,” explained Snyder. “These chefs [of infused edibles] are trying to please the crowd – I respect the ingredient.”
Snyder was invited to be one of eight chefs to compete at the San Bernardino HIGH TIMES 2016 Medical Cannabis Cup. He’s a serious chef that always has fun with his food.
“I’m always looking for ways make something crazy – like chorizo wrapped in bacon, then I batter it in Modelo beer batter. It’s a Spanish corn dog!”
It’s a head to head elimination competition where two chefs battle it out at a time, on stage. Winners advance until the ultimate champion remains. Judges can choose any cuisine for the contestants, who will have only 40 minutes to cook each plate. If Snyder wins, he goes to the next round – much like the Iron Chef show where they don’t reveal the eccentric, key ingredient until the chefs are on stage, beside their burners.
“I’m just honestly looking at old recipes and reading as much as I can, I’m based at home in Los Angeles so I go to all the markets – Chinese, Ethiopian, looking at what I can use.” The foodie’s most recent food find – pickled mangoes. The baby mangoes are pickled to look like pickles you would find stateside, but the brine is spicy. Snyder explained that it’s an ingredient used in Asia and Hawaii. “Because I worked with some celebrity chefs, there’s always going to be that weird ingredient.” The most outrageous ingredient he incorporates – pork blood. “I’ve been trained for whatever’s thrown at me and blood is actually a good substitute for eggs, good for sauces and nutritious too.”
Snyder fuses his fine culinary skills with his love of street food wherever he can. “Working in Bangkok is something I’ll never forget, it’s a whole other world out there.” He fell in love with Asian cuisine and you can see it in his signature dishes.
He spent a lot of time immersing himself into the food cultures of Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai. “I love street food. That’s what I love to eat.”
The crafted chef keeps himself busy. He’s the Co-Founder and Executive Chef of The Crafted Chef, which he will be representing at the Cannabis Cup cook-off. The business specializes in THC and CBD infused farm-to-table, Michelin quality, seasonal dishes. “I was into molecular biology – I learned the science behind things; that helps with dosing. I used all my training to make the best food possible, and taste good too.”
Classically trained, the young chef is also a consulting pastry chef. He’s helped open restaurants across Asia and America. “I’m only 28 and have had the opportunity to do work in 12 different cities. I started the private chef thing in Hawaii, and I smoke weed, I love weed.”
For Snyder, it’s not just a recreational thing. “There’s a benefit from it…I’m trying to be responsible, end the stigma because people neglect the healing properties – it helps me with my back pain from working 15 hours in the kitchen every day. It’s truly a medicine and better than painkillers.”
There’s a whole subculture in the culinary world, he revealed. “The thing in the kitchen – it’s a whole different world, there’s lots of drug use actually – with the long hours everyone is fighting the pain, and it’s 120 degrees back there.” The life of a chef isn’t as glamourous as Top Chef or Master Chef make it seem. “When I left San Diego I followed my dreams and worked my ass off at being the best I could be. I was living the chefs’ life – I won all the awards while spending my off hours strung out at the bar.”
But a jet-setting chef’s life, where benzos and alcohol were the norm, wasn’t sustainable nor compatible with the life he wanted to live. “It was fun, I had a blast but I wanted to have a family and it could have killed me,” he warned. “Chefs don’t live to be very old.”
Now he’s living in California and making it his mission to bring top-notch infused edibles to the table because, let’s face it, no one is impressed with a simple marijuana gummy bear or cookie anymore.
“When I present my 5-course fine dining meals, the taste is always first. Some like 80 mg of THC in one plate of food but that just gets people extremely stoned,” said Snyder. “I learned proper dosage and taste, and use my own recipe of oils and butter. I don’t want my dinners to get to the point where they are passing out by the end of the meal.”
Crafted Chef is not your average infused catering company. They once had a client request only the freshest Japanese ingredients. “So we flew in Kobe beef, Uni, and Japanese fruits from the source and picked them up from the airport.” Proposition 215 compliant, Crafted Chef checks medical cards and goes as far as to order Ubers to pick up their guests at the conclusion of the dining experience. Donations include dinner and a ride home. Prices can range from $75 for a social gathering and up to $500 a person for a fine dining experience. “Lots of training and reading and blood, sweat, and tears went into getting this project going,” said Snyder.
The chef’s got great taste. Snyder has already established himself as a classically trained culinary master. Now he’s focusing on extending his skillset to the cannabis space by partnering with some of the most recognizable names in the cannabis community. One partnership in particular could have him working with one of the OG’s of comedy and weed.
Watch out for this talented top chef at this weekend’s Cannabis Cup cooking competition. He’ll be the one hustling on stage by himself, as he turned down taking on a sous chef.