Photo : Le Devoir
I have met Jean Soulard during a joint interview with Josée Blanchette, journalist for Le Devoir.
She had gathered us at her home, on a beautiful afternoon, to discuss cannabis cooking. I had just published my book “Le Cannabis medicinal, le connaître et l’utiliser”
And he had published his “ Cannabis en cuisine, ce n’est pas comme du basilic”
We have had a lot of fun exchanging on our experiences and our methods. Thus it is with enjoyment, that I contacted him for this interview, and he accepted on immediately, in spite of his loaded schedule.
1) Jean, what tempted you to experiment cooking with cannabis?
I would say the curiosity and my desire to learn and innovate.
All my career, I tried to follow new paths, which are not beforehand traced. For example, when I was a Chef at the Château Frontenac, I created a garden on the roof of the Hotel. Already, it was very innovative, but when I added bees and Chanteclerc hens (endangered species of Quebec), everybody thought I was crazy!
I don’t mind it, because I always liked getting off the beaten tracks.
At the end of fall 2017, we know that legalization is coming and I am intrigued by the cannabis cooking, even though I have never smoked a joint of my life. I began my research on the Internet. I saw videos of people from Colorado cooking just by spreading the crushed cannabis flower in their mixture and I questioned seriously their method which seemed very improvised to me.
My first approach was to surround me with specialists such as Norman Voyer, chemist, as well as a toxicologist of the University and two researchers on therapeutic cannabis. Once my learning was good enough, I decided to take action by buying cannabis from one of my friends and began testing my recipes.
2) Is it more difficult or complex than you imagined at first?
Not from the “chemistry”side, but rather from the “ethical” point of view. I was my own guinea pig and my first experience lasted about 24 hours! I then began to test my recipes on my neighbors and my friends to verify the dosages. I quickly noticed that the effects vary a great deal from one person to another. Our tolerance threshold to the THC is not at all the same. The effects also vary according to the moment. For example, I served a dosage identical to the same person, in a week of interval, and the effects were different.
It is difficult to anticipate the effect on people. Sometimes, I ask myself “Why do you do that Jean?”. But curiosity always took over.
3) You were bold in being the first leader in Quebec to publish a book on the subject. What was the reaction of the people around you? What about the other chefs?
That’s the question I get most often.
Honestly, this is my eleventh book and I’ve never had to justify myself so much on a book! I didn’t do it out of opportunism, but to discover and learn.
I always get two reactions to the book:
• “What the hell are you doing” or “You’re the only one who could make that kind of book”
I listened to people a lot, but for me, it was a reality. Cannabis was coming and it was going to stay, whether we like it or not.
In spite of that, I would say that in general the comments were quite favourable. For those who were less, I suggested they read the first 25 pages of my book before judging (these pages are the explanation of the collaborating experts), so they could see the rigour I have put into it.
4) Is this an avenue you want to continue exploring?
Not at all. I started my experiments in early November and finished in late April. I still have butter and cannabis oil in my fridge, and I haven’t touched it since.
I went around. I learned what I wanted to learn. Today, I’m focusing on conferences.
5) Do you think Quebec consumers are ready for this?
I would say no at 50%. And this is not right or wrong.
The advantage of legalization is that we can now have access to products whose quality and concentration are controlled.
At the time, because I had purchased my cannabis on the black market, I had to have it tested before I cooked it. Today, we no longer have that problem.
I still notice that social acceptance is not there yet. Drinking wine and driving after is “socially accepted”, but not cannabis. There is some inconsistency, but that is another debate.
We have our foot on the brake and I understand that. If it weren’t for the cooking aspect of cannabis, I would have followed it with a discreet eye.
6) What advice would you give people who want to learn about it?
Cannabis is still a drug. As they say, “Moderation tastes much better”. And there’s no obligation to try it either.
Jean, thank you.