Terpenes are the naturally-occurring compounds responsible for the scent and taste of most plant life. They comprise one of the largest and most diverse groups of organic compounds on the planet and were first discovered by the founder of terpene chemistry, chemist Otto Wallach, in 1887.
Cumulatively, over 20,000 different terpenes have been identified and described, and there are hundreds in the cannabis plant alone. Of course, these terpenes are also present in other plants. For example, Linalool can be found in cinnamon and lavender, Limonene in citrus, and Myrcene is abundant in hops.
How do terpenes fit into the fine dining picture?
Though good presentation is important, we all know that gastronomy is primarily centered around two qualities: aroma and flavor. This is because the flavors your tongue can interpret are heavily influenced by your olfactory system’s interpretation of aromas. Put simply, taste and scent are synergistic elements in the culinary experience.
Since the concept of terpenes-infused fine dining is still in its relative infancy, brick and mortar restaurants don’t seem too keen on taking the gamble just yet. This has lead many interested culinary trailblazers to host what’s being referred to as “pop-up events” all over the globe. These pop-up events also serve as venues for further educating the masses as to the incredible benefits of incorporating terpenes into both drinks and dishes.
Recent “Pop-Up” Fine Dining Events
Lively dinner events are just one way the public is being introduced to cannabis-derived terpenes as a fine-dining ingredient. One such event was held recently, on May 18, near Whitechapel in London. Terpenes Fine Dining & Live Music was organized by Organic Livity Pâtisserie, who specialize in working with organic, plant-based ingredients. The highlight was “an exquisite dinner with selected terpenes from California’s finest flowers” which were selected by Blue Ridge Hemp, Sovereign Field, and TerpAlchemy.
Altered Plates also held a similar event at James Beard House in California on May 15th. The founders of Altered Plates are the siblings Rachel Burkons and Chef Holden Jagger. They created a five-course meal with the theme “An Exploration of Terpenes,” the foundation of which was the infusion of terpenes into fine dining.
The “Entourage Effect” in Cooking & The Future Of Fine Dining
While many of these pop-up events focus on terpenes, The Herbal Chef expertly selects the terpenes used in his CBD-infused meals to create a unique dining experience, taking full advantage of the Entourage Effect to achieve this. In fact, he contributed a piece about terpenes in Dope Magazine. Chris Sayegh, the Head Chef, and owner of The Herbal Chef, works terpenes into customers’ dining experience “by using them as an interactive aromatic centerpiece.” He cited using Linalool because “it’s calming, and that’s not just because it smells good; terpenoid myrcenol is present, which induces a calming effect.”
Though fine dining chefs seem to limit disclosure of which terpenes they infuse into their dishes to event-goers, it’s clear that they are and will continue to experiment with the tens of thousands of terpenes available to create dishes as unique as the dining experience.