Aspen chef Randy Placeres prepares fine-dining cannabis cuisine
January 4, 2016
Snacks like pot brownies and gummy bears have been around long before Colorado legalized marijuana.
But what about a yellowtail crudo dish served with a warm ginger coconut sativa oil on top? Or a burrata and brie grilled cheese sandwich with prosciutto seared with cannabutter (that's butter made with cannabis)?
These are among the few dishes local chef Randy Placeres is whipping up as he pioneers the field of "fine-dining cannabis cuisine."
Placeres has worked as a chef in Aspen since 1999 and founded his own culinary group, Aspen Culinary Solutions, in 2004. He operates privately and in corporate settings in cities such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.
High-end cannabis cuisine is Placeres' latest venture, which he started pursuing in 2013. Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since Jan. 1, 2014.
"The more I started thinking about it, the more excited I got," Placeres said. "So I started creating some recipes."
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Some of Placeres' original dishes include his pot paella, squid-ink gnocchi with snapper cooked in cannabis oil, blinis — or Russian pancakes — with "medicated" caviar, and cannabutter-seared scallops over Olathe corn and pancetta.
Placeres will feature some of his fine-dining cannabis dishes and more in a cookbook he currently is working on, "T.H.C.uisine."
"T.H.C.uisine" also will explain the process of decarboxylation, or extracting the cannabinoids, in order to properly cook with it in the kitchen.
All marijuana-infused dishes must cook at a particular temperature for a certain amount of time in order for the THC to be released, Placeres said.
One of the simplest ways Placeres infuses his dishes with marijuana is by incorporating the cannabis into a fat soluble — i.e. oils or butters.
Placeres prepares what he calls his "magic" or "dope" sauces, which he marinates and flavors a number of various proteins and grains with.
Placeres' clientele include private families, many of whom visit Aspen from Miami, Los Angeles and New York, Placeres said, and who book the chef for anything from "cannabrunches" and cocktail parties to nine-course dinners with 10 to 40 guests.
"Randy's energy and fun-loving personality make each meal more than a dish, but an experience one wants to have over and over again," said Devon Olivia, whose family has hired Placeres as a private chef for nearly 20 years.
"The flavors he creates and his passion for creating unique dishes sets him apart from other famous chefs," Olivia said.
While Placeres said he hopes to become one of the top chefs in the country cooking with cannabis, he is far more than a cannabis chef.
A few of Placeres' career highlights include working at the 2004 Winter X Games, when he and his Aspen Culinary Solutions team prepared 16,000 meals in six days during their first year in business.
He's worked Food & Wine festivals in New York City and South Beach, catered a dinner for basketball star Lebron James last weekend and has been flown across the world by families craving a taste of home.
"Randy's cooking is in a league of itself," Olivia said. "Yet the thing that most sets Randy apart is the passion and love he puts into every dish."