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How Jeff The420Chef Baked His Way to Culinary Success

He began his journey cooking for a friend suffering from cancer, now he's the Rachel Ray of reefer.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips, and insights from successful cannabis entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Joseph Viles

What inspired you to become a cannabis chef?

I grew up in Los Angeles and have always loved cooking and baking. I have also been a cannabis enthusiast since the age of 16. When I was 19, I moved to New York and spent over 25 years doing fashion marketing. But that all changed in 2012 when I started cooking and baking for a friend’s mother who was suffering from cancer. When I saw that it was really helping her, I focused on improving the experience by figuring out how to remove the cannabis taste from my edibles and how to properly dose each serving. Once I figured that out, I started cooking for more and more people, from patients to celebrities to other chefs. 

I've written two books: The 420 Gourmet and The Elevated Art of Cannabis Cuisine, and I host "The 420 Gourmet" cooking show on The Cannabis Cooking Channel. I also invented FreeLeaf cannabis that is odorless when smoked and tasteless when infused into edibles. In 2017, The San Francisco Chronicle GreenState named me one of America’s top cannabis chefs, and I received a Canadian Cannabis Award for Culinary Excellence. 

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About Edibles

How is your business different than others like it?

On the culinary side of the business, everything we do is focused on elevating the art of cannabis cuisine and teaching others how to do it. I now teach my process to others. Of course, the home-cleaning process is not “tasteless” like FreeLea,  but it is light enough tasting, that when used properly, it will yield great-tasting, perfectly-dosed edibles that have a very pleasant, light cannabis taste. 

When it comes to FreeLeafthere is no other brand in the world like it. It is the only cannabis flower in the world that offers smokers a discreet odorless product that doesn’t smell like cannabis when smoked. It takes discretion to a whole new level. We plan to have FreeLeaf pre-rolls and pre-packed flower (buds) in licensed dispensaries in California by Q4. 

And we just discovered that the patent-pending process also can remediate cannabis that has been contaminated with surface contaminants such as mold, fungus, bacteria, and smoke! This itself, holds a tremendous amount of potential for farmers who are faced with the specter of having to “destroy and compost” crops that have been contaminated.

We are still in the process of testing the process with individual contaminants as well as pesticides and plan to present our findings to the Bureau of Cannabis Control before year end. Our goals are to ensure that farmers have a way to remediate and save crops that initially fail lab testing and would have ordinarily needed to have been destroyed. Since the remediated product can then be sold as safe, farmers won’t lose a fortune on lost crops, cannabis prices will meet supply and demand thresholds and the government can collect taxes on the product.      

What was one of the toughest challenges you've faced? 

Our toughest challenge has been and still is acquiring the capital we need to grow our businesses quickly and efficiently. I’ve been bootstrapping the business from the beginning, but it’s time to take it to the next level. We are currently meeting with investors to raise the money we need to grow The Cannabis Cooking Channel, launch FreeLeaf, and complete the remediation testing and data collection process for the BCC. Our goal is to prove that the process works for each testable contaminant, so we can industrialize the process and take it nationwide and ultimately, worldwide.   

Related: 6 Lessons From Cannabis CEOs Who Raised More Than $50 Million

What skills do you need to become successful in a culinary cannabis business?

You definitely have to have a background in your business and passion for what you do, but the top skills are vision, perseverance, networking, and a deep understanding of the plant, the business, and the changing legal landscape. 

Any other recipes for success?

Understand everything you can about the plant first and what you legally can and can’t do with it, and what the hurdles are or may be. Then just do what you love and love what you do and have a solid vision and plan.  At the end of the day, cannabis is just another ingredient.

Related: The 3 Factors That Could Determine Your Success in the Cannabis Industry