The cannabis economy is growing and Niagara County Community College has answered the call to educate those who wish to enter the field. The college began offering a cannabis-focused curriculum through its Horticulture program in 2019 and is adding cannabis-infused lesson plans to its Culinary Arts program.
During a May 2020 curriculum meeting at NCCC, Chef Nathan Koscielski, a certified culinary instructor and associate professor at Niagara Falls Culinary Institute stated, “Many states are legalizing cannabis for recreational use. I want the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute and NCCC to be the gold standard when it comes to professional culinary cannabis education. I understand that this is a controversial topic and there are stigmas, but I am approaching this from an educational perspective with a focus on safety as more chefs and culinarians enter this growing space.”
Koscielski’s research, education, and presentation were accepted and by January, students were enrolled in the college’s first-ever culinary cannabis class.
Niagara County Community College is the only SUNY school to offer a culinary-centric cannabis course, and Koscielski is one of the first 50 chefs in the United States to receive accreditation in culinary cannabis, after earning a specialization certificate in Culinary Cannabis and Edibles.
Koscielski’s vision for cannabis-based cooking courses is vast. “I cannot think of a single ingredient that could be used for savory and sweet dishes, beverages, and even retail. There are so many different strains, each one with its unique flavor profile,” he said. “The health benefits are bountiful, and fluctuate depending on the variation. Cannabis is changing the food service industry. Those who have a growth mindset and can see it as an ingredient are going to thrive.”
The Culinary Cannabis and Edibles course does not yet include hands-on culinary training or sampling, since recreational marijuana use has not yet been legalized by New York State. Instead, the course focuses on the proper handling of THC-based ingredients as well as non-THC ingredients such as hemp and CBD (cannabinoids). Students will learn how to determine which cannabis to choose based on the type of sweet or savory dish they would prepare.
For example, according to Koscielski: Super Citrus Haze is tart, perfect for pairing with a light sugary dessert, while a Sweet Pink Kush strain would complement seafood. A distinctive Sour Diesel cannabis will shine through even when paired with bold ingredients like rosemary and a variety of rich game meats.