When Keenan Bosworth closed his Scottsdale restaurant Pig & Pickle in 2019, he “beat himself up for a while,” he admitted.
He was proud of the restaurant, but also tired of trying to balance 80-hour work weeks with time for his young children. Business had tapered out after a successful first five to six years, it was hard to compete with new restaurants and he was falling behind on rent.
But shutting down one venture freed up time for the next: After hosting cannabis pop-up dinners at Pig & Pickle, Bosworth works full-time in the cannabis industry. He now grows marijuana at Green Gene Genetics, a dispensary in Tolleson, and is working with the team to open up a kitchen.
He also hopes to expand TableFourTwenty, a business he started in 2018 with Justine Trujillo of Jewel’s Cafe. TableFourTwenty hosts private cannabis dinners, and though they took a pause during the pandemic, he sees more opportunities in the near future — especially now that recreational marijuana is legal in Arizona.
How this chef got his start cooking with cannabis
Bosworth said his interest in cooking came first.
Coming up in professional kitchens in the early ’90s and 2000s, marijuana played a mostly recreational role in his life, cooked into brownies and butters, as a way to deal with long hours of high-intensity, low-paying work. He recalled making around $4.25 an hour at his first job in a high-end hotel.
It was a “sadistic and savage” time when screaming chefs were the norm, he described.
“If you wanted to move up, you just had to take it,” Bosworth said. “And a lot of us did.”
It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that he started more seriously toying around with cooking with cannabis. He noticed most infused foods were on the sweet side, such as gummies and cookies, and wanted to experiment with savory foods.
When Arizona legalized medical marijuana in 2010, it opened up a way to introduce his cannabis cooking to a wider circle than just his friends. During Pig & Pickle’s seven-year run serving up pub fare, he started hosting private dinners for medical marijuana card holders.
The multi-course dinners featured dishes such as sous vide short ribs infused with THC distillate and crispy-skinned sea bass paired with an infused chimichurri sauce. Bosworth said he dosed low — 3 mg of THC per course — with optional add-ons, such as an extra 10 mg of THC in a spoonful of chimichurri.
THC is the chemical in marijuana responsible for producing the sensation of feeling high. There are various ways to cook THC into food, such as baking ground buds and infusing it with regular butter or purchasing distillate, typically flavorless THC concentrate, and infusing it with cooking oil.
For some people, a five-course meal with 15 mg will blow them out of the water, he said. For others, that’s nothing.
“Everyone has different comfort levels, especially with edibles,” Bosworth said. “I don’t want this experience to be like high school, having too much and getting paranoid. That’s not interesting to me.”
Keeping the doses low allows people to adjust to their comfort level, he said.
The advantage of recreational marijuana now being legal is that more people can go to dispensaries, talk to experts and learn what dosage could be right for them. People might know what six shots of Jameson or two glasses of wine will do to them, but marijuana is still loose-ended for a lot of people, he explained.
What to expect at TableFourTwenty pop-up dinners
Anyone who wants to get serious about cooking with THC should first have a solid foundation in cooking, plus have some math skills, Bosworth advised.
Bosworth said he’s interested in putting more hot food products in the cannabis market, such as frozen pizza and bratwursts. He would also like to work with Trujillo to return to more TableFourTwenty pop-up events and private dinners, now that COVID-19 guidelines have loosened and restaurants have opened back up.
Their past events were restricted to medical marijuana cardholders, but future events could be open to anyone ages 21 and up.
“I’ve cooked a lot, but it wasn’t until the weed dinner with Keenan did I make legit (THC-infused) food, like plates,” Trujillo said. “He is always like the chill guy. I’m the one freaking out, thinking everything’s not perfect. He was always just really supportive.”
Trujillo, who opened a late-night taco stand last year with her husband Misael, wants to try making tacos with THC.
Their past events have ranged from barbecues with cannabis leaf marinated ribs and “cannabuttered” grilled corn to a five-course dinner with oysters, snapper and cheesecake.
Tickets to these events cost $60 to $120. Now that recreational cannabis is legal, more people will have the opportunity to attend these events, Trujillo said.
In the beginning of mandatory pandemic closures, TableFourTwenty offered medicated meals for pickup, but takeout proved more complicated than in-person events, Bosworth admitted.
He’d like to see more infused foods in the restaurant space, such as The Mint Cafe, located at the Mint Dispensary in Guadalupe, between south Phoenix and Tempe. The Mint Cafe, which has a full-service kitchen, serves vegetarian chicken nuggets, tacos and pizza infused with anywhere from 25 to 1,000 mg of THC.
Bosworth suggests Arizona should license restaurants that serve infused food similarly to how the state approves and enforces liquor licenses. This would allow restaurants to operate off dispensary grounds, he said.
Now working at Green Gene Genetics, Bosworth plans on helping his dispensary launch its kitchen and first edible products.
“I think we’ll start with some of the basics, gummies to start with,” Bosworth said. “Let’s be real, we need that stuff too — that’s the lucrative side of it. But the goal to get into more savory items. For me, if nothing else, it’s to have a workshop start doing R&D on some of those things.”
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