Chef Brandon Allen grew up splitting time between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where he worked in his mother and stepfather’s pizza and sandwich shop. His first foray into cooking came when he was asked to develop an all-vegan menu for the restaurant. This, he said, was the beginning of his foray into cooking.
“I loved food too much to deprive myself of so much pleasure,” he said of eventually giving up the plant-based diet he had started. “I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s show, Kitchen Confidential, and he really turned me around. I brought a pizza home one day and devoured it, loved it – then ate a bacon cheeseburger the next day and never went back.”
Allen said he anticipated either being sick after eating meat again, or having digestive issues, but nothing came.
He studied culinary arts at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, apprenticing with an Olympic Culinary Team and Executive Chef, Sean Culp. He then moved to Denver, where he met his now-fiancée, Megan. The two then spent time in Austin, Texas, then Los Angeles and San Diego, California, before relocating to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Megan is from. The experiences in each region, he said, further added to his culinary education and cannabis savvy.
“The biggest thing that shifted me was falling in love with food,” he explained. “I’ve tried pescatarian – which is adding fish to a vegetarian diet; took a dive into paleo; but now I continue to bounce back and forth between a keto carnivore diet and low carbs. No more vegan or vegetarian for me.”
Keto & Cannabis
Born with decreased lordosis (sway back), herniated disks and arthritis, Allen said he began smoking cannabis at the age of 14.
“The first time I got high we were smoking out of a tin foil bowl in a baseball field dugout, during the summer carnival in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania,” he shared. “I first started consuming cannabis again as an adult. Once I got my medical card, I was smoking flower and eating edibles. It’s funny, just this week I was driving around my old stomping ground and came across the baseball field, so I stopped by and said hello to the dugout!”
Allen said the chronic pain he’d suffered with all of his life eventually led him to the ketogenic diet, in an attempt to reduce inflammation in his body in an effort to reduce the pain. He said the diet worked wonders, but he still suffered from flair-ups.
“Then I discovered the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis–and everything changed. I was able to bridge the gap between Keto living and cannabis–and I truly believe that the human body’s ultimate state is achieved through a combination of nutritional ketosis and cannabis supplementation. For the first time I found something that worked to finally replace the pills for good, and I didn’t think that would ever be possible.”
According to WebMD, a ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that leaves out sugary foods, including fruits, starches, and wheat-based products; such as rice, pasta, and cereals. Ketosis is a natural biological process that happens when the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, and subsequently, burns body fat for fuel.
“The ability to achieve homeostasis starts with fuel, otherwise known as food,” he added. “Then cannabis as a medicine is added to help supplement what food alone cannot achieve. If you’re not giving your body the proper fuel, you’re only making it more challenging on the supplementation side. The reason I’ve combined cannabis and ketosis is because of the amazing paralleling benefits that being in ketosis and consuming cannabis share.”
Addressing everything from cognitive function and clarity, to fat metabolism and cellular repair, with ketones and cannabinoids, Allen’s convinced he’s found a powerhouse duo for health and well-being.
Allen’s enthusiasm for cannabis aligned with legalization throughout the country. While in Denver in 2016, he enrolled at the Trichome Institute, becoming certified as an interpener.
Institute founder, Max Montrose, created the Interpening program in 2008. Similar to a wine sommelier, interpeners learn to predict cannabis effects, based on physical and aromatic evaluation.
The program puts a strong emphasis on terpenes and cannabinoids as principle compounds, encouraging students to ignore THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) counts, and focus on whole plant compounds for better effects.
“The stars aligned two years ago in 2018, when I partnered with Max at Trichome,” he shared.” I first came on board as a part-time consultant and we now run the institute together. I helped redevelop the interpening program, edited the book, “Interpening: The Art and Science of the Cannabis Sommelier;” and helped add three new courses, one on consumers, another on industry professionals, and one on extractions.”
Allen’s work with the institute has been nothing short of inspiring, and he said more courses are in the works.
“We were just reviewed and accredited by the American Culinary Association for cannabis cuisine,” he said. “The certification was based on a test, with four resources submitted, and one of them was the interpening book. It was a huge accomplishment and one we are really proud of.”
Montrose said Allen has taken Trichome Institute’s curriculum and platforms and turned everything into a better version of itself in a very short amount of time.
“Brandon is a dynamic, pragmatic, logic-seeking chef, who appreciates and understands the complex nature of cannabis – and society’s understanding of the plant,” Montrose said of his partner. “Trichome Institute was custom-made for people like Brandon.”
Among Allen’s many achievements in a very short time in the space, he won the competition as High Times’ first Top Cannabis Chef.
“The first competition at a Cup was in Las Vegas in 2017, but a storm shut it down,” he explained. “When they rescheduled, not everyone that initially signed up could make it. There was one slot to fill and I got in. Now, mind you, I was ready, but completely unknown in the world of cannabis cooking. Everyone else in the competition was already known, had hosted cannabis dinners, had edible lines, and authored books on the subject.”
The event was hectic, but Allen said it’s what he trained for as a chef, to think and cook under pressure.
“It was brutal,” he continued. “I was the new guy, but I kicked some serious ass and it was awesome.”
Allen feels that cannabis is many things to many people, but one of the most amazing side effects of the plant, he said, has been all the opportunities given to so many.
“Cannabis gives opportunity to feel better, to be healthier, to experience life differently, and to let loose,” he concluded. The plant gives us an opportunity to relax and be in the moment. But it has also provided me with an opportunity to have an amazing career, travel the world, and meet some of the most fascinating people. This plant and community have changed my life in many internal and external ways, and all for the best.”