When someone tells me they voted for Trump or Ford because “he speaks my language… He’s a regular dude and I can relate to him,” red flags go up. I don’t want the guy who’s leading my country to be a regular dude… My friend Frank is a nice guy who I’m sure thinks he has the country’s problems all figured out…but he shouldn’t run for office. I want the smartest person possible running the country…the person who carried a briefcase in high school and spent their lunch hour in the library reading up on world economics. Regular dudes should be sitting next to me at a picnic table sharing some great conversation while enjoying a beer, some great food and maybe a joint… enter Danny Raposo—the regular guy who cooked my food today.
On a sunny March afternoon, we drove out to Danny’s compound, not entirely sure of what to expect. We were given the address and told the house was “just after the dinosaur and across the street.” Sure enough about 4km up Highway 6 in rural Hamilton, we saw a T-rex coming up on our right side. We pulled in the driveway and were greeted by Jonathan and Fernando, a couple of members of Danny’s team, and a chicken (to be fair, the chicken didn’t actually greet us, she just wandered around the property). We walked over to the food truck where we met the man himself who was already prepping for the shoot. “Hey, nice to meet you. I’m going to make a little appetizer. Do you guys like octopus?”
Danny may be a regular dude, but he’s also very professional and all business, which is why this MasterChef Canada contestant is considered one of the world’s leading cannabis chefs. As he starts to cook, he talks us through all the steps, while also giving us some business background and casually slowing down at all the right spots for us to take photos. “I love, love, love the kitchen. I love food. I’ve been cooking my whole life, like literally. My dad is a chef who worked at the Imperial Room downtown at The Royal York and also owned his own restaurant. As a kid, I grew up in a kitchen. Everybody, in my family cooks except for my brother Fernando” (Fernando owns the chicken).
I was curious how one goes from having a father working as a chef at the Imperial Room to catering with cannabis. “I had accidents and was prescribed Percocet and other painkillers. Later, I was introduced to cannabis and found it helped.” Over time, he was able to replace the big Pharma opiates with something natural. “I did away with the pills. Once I realized this was working for me, I decided to make it a career. I was working construction at the time and I left that world to get back in the kitchen full-time.”
Out of the gate, Danny opened Big D’s House of Munch—a very cool retro Airstream food truck which is now wrapped in green and white and working for Wahlburgers. “When I sold to Wahlburgers, I couldn’t do anything food related for four years, so I planned. I got these two food trucks built and now we’re ready to launch. Soon, you’ll be able to order online and your food will be available for takeout or we will deliver to these little areas around here like Waterdown. Carlisle, Millgrove and Rockton because there’s no Uber Eats. I figured, I have this trailer and I’m going a little stir crazy—I guess we all are—and I want to do something. Around here you have a lot of the chain restaurants serving all that garbage, so why not give people stuff that’s fresh. We smoke our own bacon, make our burgers from scratch… everything is fresh. Let’s just say, I’m not grinding down old burgers to make chilli or using old chicken for sandwiches. I understand that’s it’s cost effective, but nobody is coming to me for a two-dollar hamburger.”
(Back in chef mode) “So really quick. I’m just gonna throw some sesame seed oil, a bit of pimenta moida (ground pepper paste), some fresh garlic, sea salt, some smoked paprika and I’m just going to mix this in.”
Danny says he doesn’t mind sharing his recipes because they cannot be reproduced—a bold statement but I quickly realize where he’s coming from. “Many of the ingredients I use are recipes I got from my in-laws like pimenta moida and chouriço. Hundred-year-old recipes that have been passed down from mother to daughter until they ended up in my hands. I wish I could say they’re mine, but they’re not.” Danny even takes from his son-in-law’s Italian grandfather, using his recipe to make giardiniera (pickled vegetables), which makes an appearance in the octopus recipe. “We’re using old school recipes to create new school dishes. Your version of my recipes will still be good… just not quite as good as mine!”
(Back in chef mode) “So I’ve toasted the bread and I’m just gonna take a little bit of this. It’s bruschetta antipasto mix. It’s got a bunch of different things—red peppers, celery, carrots, onions, broccoli, pickles, garlic, corn—it’s got almost everything in here.”
The conversation switches to catering. Danny tells me how cannabis chefs in Ontario can cook for your private event but are not permitted to supply the cannabis. “Basically, that would make me a drug dealer in the eyes of the law. If you want cannabis in your food, it has to be yours, so right now I’m working with a few different dispensaries. You go in and legally buy your cannabis. I’m outside and you bring it to me. I press it to make the oil, you order the food, I put it in then I sell it to you. I’m not giving you any weed, I’m just providing a service.”
(And again he goes back to chef mode) This will not take long at all—about a minute to cook. A lot of people make a mistake when it comes to octopus. They cook it to the point where it becomes rubbery—now the octopus is like a shoe.”
(And then out again) “We’re hoping to be doing quite a bit this year, or as soon as everything gets back to normal—weddings, parties, private events”
My knowledge of cooking with cannabis is pretty limited—I know some people make brownies, others love gummy bears and the phrase “cannabis infused” is always floating around. Danny is quick to point out that most chefs aren’t infusing anything. “Sauce droppers. Many chefs take the concentrate and put it on top of a meal then call it infused—it’s not. Even though most of the good stuff is in the buds, I use the whole plant. The roots alone have so many nutrients and vitamins, so we steep them to make stock, juices and teas. I decarb the leaves which opens up the cannabinoids and converts them from a THCA to a THC, which I grind to make flour that I use to make fresh pasta. I experiment with everything.” As we eat the octopus (ridiculously delicious—no shoe sole here), Danny explains the art of cooking with cannabis. “We can infuse anything—Portuguese food, Canadian, whatever you want…and if we’re catering an event and you want regular non-cannabis food, that’s cool too.”
“When we cater an event, we put you on a roller coaster ride. Let’s say the event starts at five o’clock. We start with a few mocktails, which are non-alcoholic cocktails, infused with THC or CBD—usually spritzers or punch, and we serve hors d’oeuvres, like this octopus. Each hors d’oeuvre will have five to ten milligrams of THC. We’ll do that for about an hour. So you have five or six of those and a couple of drinks and 45 minutes later, you’re feeling pretty good. Then we sit you down and hit you with the first course. Most of it is CBD with just a touch of THC, so what happens is the CBD will counter the THC and bring you down. The second course brings you back up and then the third will bring you down again. You’re getting about 50 milligrams per dinner—that’s spread over 4 hours. At our events, we have canna doctors or influencers come in to educate our guests and we always have licensed paramedics on site.”
You’d think with the food delivery running weekdays, and the private parties and weddings on Saturdays, that Sunday would be a day of rest at the Stoner Chef Compound, but no. Danny, plans on hosting a private market every Sunday where people can come, have brunch, listen to music, shop from handpicked vendors and get educated by different speakers—someone talking about body & bath bombs, rubs and topicals one week I will be out there talking about food the next week and after that we may have a doctor.”
By the end of our conversation, for a short minute, I was convinced Danny Raposo should run for prime-minister. We got in the car, waved goodbye, started driving back down Highway 6 towards home and I saw Mr. T-Rex. His arms were way too tiny to carry a briefcase… no wonder they went extinct—I blame bad leadership.
Octopus crostini with vegetables
3 celery ribs, sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
1 medium green pepper, sliced
1 can water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and quartered
1 jar whole mushrooms, drained
3/4 cup sliced ripe olives
3/4 cup olive oil, (cbd infused)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 green onions (white parts only), thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 jar pimento strips
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
3-4 large octopus legs
1 large french loaf, cut in 1/2” slices
1/2 tbsp pimento moida
1 1/2 tsp fresh minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black or white pepper
2 tbsp of olive oil (thc infused)
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup arugula
[PREP: 25 MIN | COOK: 10 MIN | CHILL: 3 HRS]
Place 1” of water, celery, carrots and green pepper in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until crisp-tender, 5-7 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl; add artichokes, mushrooms and olives.
In a small saucepan, whisk oil, vinegar, onions, garlic, sugar, pepper and salt; bring just to a boil. Pour over vegetables; toss to coat. Cool to room temperature. Stir in pimentos and parsley. Refrigerate until serving.
[PREP: 7 MIN | COOK: 15-17 MIN]
In a large bowl add octopus, pimento moida, garlic, black or white pepper, salt, olive oil, Italian seasoning and mix well. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Make sure that your bbq is hot enough to sear the octopus. Med/High. Use a paper towel with oil to rub on the bbq grill and let cook for 7 minutes or until almost crisp on the outside. Flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Remove octopus and cover for 5 minutes. While you are waiting for your octopus to cool off.
Take your 1/2 cut French bread and add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and fry bread on a pan till golden brown. Remove it from pan and set aside.
Take bread and add vegetables antipasto than add grilled octopus, add arugula with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Bob’s your uncle. You’re done. Enjoy!
WORDS: DAVID GANHÃO
PHOTOS: NOAH GANHÃO