Why Chef Berry began teaching others to cook with cannabis

Written by ochbs.com
October 14, 2020
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Chef Linda Berry has spent a lot of time mentoring the next generation headed to the culinary field, while also becoming sous chef for a national traveling cannabis event:The High End Affair. As a culinary powerhouse, She’s established her influence through her work as a chef and educator by sharing her skills and expertise with local and international companies and organizations, through cannabis experiences, and cooking for celebrity events. From intimate meals to large conferences, Chef Berry has become a sought-after chef and educator.

What are your specialties?

I specialize in plant forward cuisine. Whether it’s teaching medical patients how to properly dose their food or children how to incorporate more produce and whole grains through my summer camp classes, my focus has always been on using food to help heal the body. 

What got you interested in the cannabis space?

As a child, my great grandmother spoke to me about the medicinal properties of herbs. She passed away when I was young but the interest that she sparked never went away. As I grew older I began to learn how to plant and benefit from different plants. As a teen I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and prescribed a cocktail of prescription medications that caused more issues without alleviating me from my initial ailment. I knew at that point that I had to research ways to help myself. For many years I was able to manage my RA through diet and exercise. 

During culinary school, as we were learning of many international herbs and the flavors they lent to our dishes I began to think about my great grandmother’s advice. Following culinary school, I would stay up after working and attending school full time to research plants and herbs. One night I was reading the recipe for a salve and the main ingredient was cannabis. When I realized that cannabis was the same herb that was demonized my entire life, I became intrigued. I spent two years researching the plant before I began to extract and microdose it to put into my meals to alleviate some of my days where diet and exercise weren’t enough to relieve me of my RA symptoms.

Was it an easy decision for you to start cooking with cannabis?

No. Not at all. In 2015, I watched my grandmother pass away emaciated because her illnesses left her without an appetite. I knew that I could use cannabis to help those in similar situations if I could overcome the fear that my family may not accept my involvement in the cannabis space. As I began to slowly share my new path, I received a call from my cousin that my aunt wasn’t able to eat because her chemo left her without an appetite. I was able to give her a tincture that helped her eat again.

Following my aunt’s success, I became an advocate and educator working primarily with an older population and medically focused companies to produce classes. I eventually came on board at the Cleveland School of Cannabis initially as their in person cooking instructor at the Columbus campus and now their online cooking instructor where I am able to reach a national audience.

Cooking at Dave Chappelle’s summer camp

What have you done in this industry? 

In the cannabis industry, I began my journey working as an educator and producer of classes and private dinners. In the midst of a relationship ending, I was going to head to the West Coast to gain more experience in public settings. Two years ago, I received a notification of a cannabis event taking place fifteen minutes away from me and that I should reach out to see if I could be of assistance. Within minutes I reached out to and received a response from Chef Nikki Steward. Though I had met her in passing at a shared kitchen space, we didn’t know one another. She took a gamble and had me on board for the very first High End Affair which quickly evolved into me becoming her executive sous chef. She has gone on to grow the brand nationally with sponsorship from WeedMaps and a VIP list of sports and entertainment attendees at every event. Most recently, we spent the summer cooking for Dave Chappelle’s summer camp and shows in Ohio with comedians Tiffany Haddish and Chris Rock giving her mention during interviews for her infused dishes. 

While working as a sous chef with The High End Affair, I continued to teach classes independently and received a call from the Cleveland School of Cannabis following a Cooking with Terpenes class that many of their students and administration attended in support of one of my business partners that was an instructor at the college during that time. Once on board with the college at their Columbus campus, I was able to become one of the only in person cannabis cooking instructors in higher education in the country. Working alongside the dynamic Mariann Offtermatt, I was able to also learn curriculum development for an entire course and how to channel years of passion into digestible weekly class sessions that teach as much about cooking basics as incorporating cannabis into edibles.

Chef Linda Berry

What’s next in this pandemic?

My goal coming into this year was to shift my classes online so that my international travel could be incorporated into curriculum. During quarantine, I was able to quickly adapt and implement the online systems. I am anticipating that my international travel schedule will pick up again so that I can implement that portion of the plan and give my students a taste of other cultures in live time. I am currently working on an online class series that will be prerecorded for anyone that would like to learn more about cooking with cannabis in a condensed format. 

This fall I am bringing the terpene classes back using a non traditional format time. My first class will be in partnership with MidWest Cannawomen and Diamond Leaf, sponsored by a local dispensary. Next year, I am slated to be the featured chef for The Ohio Cannabis Health and Business Summit where I will provide education sessions for the public. I continue to work in the kitchen in support of cannabis brands while launching my Cannachef training and mentorship programs to support chefs and culinary enthusiasts looking to turn their passion into profitable businesses. The world of a cannabis chef can fall into a grey area so I’m looking forward to providing the education and support to the next generation of cannabis chefs and culinary educators.

How do you relax? 

Because travel is such a large part of my professional career, I relax by unplugging, turning on soothing music, and taking a long nature walk or sit in or near water while I meditate and take in the Earth’s beauty. I try to dedicate a few days to doing this throughout every month to ensure that I am recharging and practicing the holistic health that I tell my community classes about.

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