Chef Sebastian talks wildcrafting, cannabis cookery and his respect for the movement's deep roots
Always outspoken and at times prickly, Chef Sebastian Carosi doesn’t play nice, unless he’s in his sweet spot happily foraging for wild edibles and transforming them into visually stunning and gastronomically spirited dishes. With an intense respect for Earth’s gifts, eco-gastronomy, and the pioneers of the cannabis movement, Chef Sebastian has become the revolutionary leader of slow food cannabis cookery. Perennially in demand, Chef Sebastian generously set aside some time to chat with Heads Lifestyle about his influences, beliefs and vision for the future.
Heads Lifestyle: First off, let’s clarify something: what exactly do you mean by cooking with cannabis? Is the idea to get high?
Sebastian Carosi: I mean cooking with it like the agricultural ingredient that it is, a plant. I don’t mind getting high but for me it’s more beneficial to consume the plant in its edible form and non-psychoactive form (although it’s quite easy to make it psychoactive). So, to put it in layman’s terms, I guess it would be easiest to say, try to eat your cannabis as if it were a fresh green like spinach or kale. And try to add a decarboxylated form of cannabis to the same recipe so you are getting the best the cannabis plant has to offer. This is an integral part of how I cook with cannabis.
Studies show that no other leafy green on the planet compares to cannabis or hemp.
HL: Why eat your greens when you can buy a tidy little bottle of CBD extract at the corner store?
SC: First off, I would not buy any products containing so-called healthy beneficial cannabinoids in a bodega or corner store (although give it some time and some of the large reputable brands will make it into every aspect of retail, even the corner store). Eating your greens in the raw vegetal state it is grown will lead to your body getting all the vital nutrients and compounds the plant has to offer in its raw form, aka, feeding your endocannabinoid system. One’s mind loves the psychoactive benefits—that’s why they are called psychoactive. But the body does not need the psychoactive ingredient; it needs the components that will feed the endocannabinoid system. Being high is just a bonus.
HL: How does cannabis compare to other dark green leafy vegetables in terms of nutrition?
SC: From the reading I’ve done and what preliminary research is available, I have found that raw cannabis and hemp contains more readily available vegetable protein than spinach and kale combined. A quick comparison of other vitamins and minerals will make you wonder why we weren’t eating raw cannabis or hemp years ago. And I’m not talking about buds; I’m talking leaves, shoots, fans leaves, roots—the entire plant. The majority of studies show that there is no other raw and leafy green on the planet that compares to cannabis or hemp. And we are learning more by the day.
HL: Both you and your wife, Carla had COVID. Do you believe the way you feed yourself and your family has aided in your recovery?
SC: I’m not sure if it helped in any way with COVID but I do know that with us trying to maintain a 40% wild food diet, it keeps our immune systems completely regulated to our region and area, which I believe is another good way to stay in good health. These nutrients give us the ability to heal quicker and stay healthier. I like to think of health as regional when it comes to naturopathy.
Chef Sebastian, "the short-order revolutionary" serves it up with panache.
HL: Spending time in whose kitchen most influenced you as a chef?
SC: It would probably have to be my mom. Growing up, she did the majority of the cooking around the house until I took over at around 11 or 12 years old. My Dad, on the other hand, is a killer cook but didn’t do much cooking because he had that true green thumb. So many of the recipes in my repertoire started out as one of the dishes my mom made and we ate regularly and that I morphed into an Instagramable version. Somehow, I was dubbed “the short-order revolutionary” along the way and I think it was because I took all those traditional middle American and non-American household dishes and made them four-diamond restaurant worthy. I don’t mean snobby food, I just mean taking classic homemade dishes like tuna noodle casserole and making it with quality ingredients like locally harvested tuna, peas from the garden and cream and cheese from the local dairy.
HL: Tell us about your involvement in the Slow Food movement?
SC: Many years ago I was actually in the first Slow Food convivium started here in the United States. But my connection to the Slow Food movement goes far deeper than that. My family owns an agrotourismo in Sardinia, Italy where I was fortunate enough to do my culinary apprenticeship. It was there that I met a middle-aged Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, sparking a lifelong journey and passion to educate people about regional farm-raised and wild harvested ingredients.
Chef Sebastian is passionate about regional farm-raised and wild harvested ingredients.
HL: What have we forgotten or lost in our relationship to food and the natural world?
SC: Almost everything. In our household, we make it a strong point to forage for a good portion of our diet. Nutrient dense wild edibles whether it is mushrooms, greens, berries, or buds, in and around the region you live, tend to have a tremendous amount of nutrients compared to their grocery store counterparts. And who does not like to get lost in the pines and Doug firs?
HL: Your Instagram images are fantastic. Do you work with a photographer and food stylist?
SC: No. No food stylist. Just me and Carla. When you grow up dreaming of having your food on the cover of major food magazines without it being a complete Monet or Picasso you try to find the most natural setting for the dish. It doesn’t make sense to me to show truffles on gold-rimmed plates when truffles are foraged by peasants and generally enjoyed by a group of people that don’t have the opportunity to spend $60 on a dish of noodles at a fancy restaurant. I personally dislike the fact that peasant-driven ingredients have become elitist and separate people on socio-economic levels. I eat whatever hotdog I can afford at the time—sometimes it’s a 99¢ hot dog and sometimes it’s a nine-dollar hot dog.
Chef Sebastian grew up dreaming of having his food on the cover of major food magazines.
HL: Where do you source the fresh hemp leaves for your recipes? If people want fresh leaves, where can they get them?
SC: Most of the time they are not hemp leaves; they are cannabis leaves. Hemp is great but I live in a legal state, so it is like diet weed to me. We have many different sources locally where we can get fresh leaves—farms, growers, and our backyard. In its raw state I prefer cannabis leaves because the dishes usually include other cannabinoid-based ingredients. There are several farms in the country from which you can currently get raw hemp leaves shipped to you. Soon, I’m sure regional hemp growers will be selling their hemp leaves from the farmers markets to natural food stores.
Fresh cannabis leaves can be sourced from farms, growers, and your own backyard depending on local laws.
HL: What are you reading these days? If someone is interested in educating themselves on the Slow Food movement, foraging, and organics, how should they start?
SC: Carla just got me four new books: Oysters by Cynthia Nims, Ugly Little Greens by Mia Wasilevich, Forage, Wild Plants to Gather, Cook and Eat by Liz Knight, and Wild Food by Roger Phillips. Start with the books and then get out in your yard and start identifying things that are edible. If someone is into wildcrafting and wild foods, the books on organics are not necessary.
HL: Let’s talk wildcrafting. How much of your food comes from foraging? What can foraging teach us about the seasonality of food and sustainable practices? How does someone become initiated with wildcrafting?
SC: We try to maintain about 40% of our diet wild. That means 25% wild and a lot of preserving. We do a lot of pickling, sun ferments, wild vinegars, bitters, and a wide variety of dehydrated items from spices to the staples of the pantry. We take only what we need, always maintain sustainable and perpetual foraging techniques (i.e. open baskets*) and harvest things at the PEAK of their true and natural state in the wild. The disconnect in the grocery store goes beyond the ingredients we are lacking but also by eating food continuously out of season, when they have not reached their nutritional potential. Put the Twinkies and Starbucks down, head to the dispensary and grab a pre-roll and take a trip to the nearest spot of desolation you can find. Turn your eyes down to the ground and start identifying edibles in the book or field guide you brought. Positively identify said edibles, head home and cook them up. Although the best way is to find a fellow stoner that loves wild edibles and have them teach you what they know. It’s an infectious community.
The best ways to learn about foraging is to find a fellow stoner who loves wild edibles and have them teach you what they know.
HL: Let’s dig a little deeper; you have a real love of mushrooms. Can you tell us what attracts you to these magnificent creatures?
SC: The only things that attract me to mushrooms are all the things we don’t know.
HL: Can you tell us about your new writing project in connection to the film Fantastic Fungi and mycologist Paul Stamets?
SC: We are actually working on a cookbook with Eugenia Bone, another chef, to create the cookbook for the documentary that Paul helped create. I feel lucky living here in the Pacific Northwest; Paul is more of a neighbour than a myco-celebrity.
HL: Can you comment on the notion of plants over pills? And while we’re on the topic, what is your position on micro-dosing psilocybin?
SC: In my mind, plants have always held the answers but people still choose the convenience of drive-thru. As for psilocybin therapies, I believe that anybody that is truly into their own mental health should have a solid micro-dosing plan. I prefer wild psilocybin over lab created psilocybin simply because the wild form is the purest form known.
Chef Sebastian believes that plants have always held the answers.
HL: You’ve been outspoken about the Green Rush and newcomers to the cannabis space. Can you share your thoughts.
SC: It’s truly sad to see the dollar sign bandwagon jumpers. I realize in today’s society everyone is trying to make a buck or have a productive side hustle but taking the hard earned money of those that are easily fooled by misinformation is heartless. It’s funny to see the LinkedIn profiles of people that have been growing cannabis for 3 to 5 years and consider themselves master growers. The same goes with CBD dog treat makers. If you weren’t making dog treats pre-CBD days with good results and positive sales, what makes you think making dog treats with the addition of CBD makes you a specialist on the pet endocannabinoid system?
HL: What is the meaning of the number 704574?
SC: I think it was the name of Cypress Hill before they became Cypress Hill. Just kidding that was the 7A3. This was actually my WSP number. The number I was given as a 17-year-old, here in Washington State for getting caught with several pounds of cannabis.
HL: What are your feelings on fame and celebrity chef culture?
SC: I wish more of them would use their position to educate on real world situations and problems versus trying to capture more dollars. I’m personally just not into the shit-baggery of deceiving people.
Carosi is outspoken and critical when it comes to the deceit of bandwagon jumpers out to make a buck in the cannabis space.
HL: You were recently published in High Times, something you’ve stated was on your bucket list. Any other items on your list that you are working towards?
SC: Yee-haw! That’s twice now—December 2020 and April 2021. Not only did I cross off a bucket list item, but I also crossed off being in High Times’ 420 Issue bucket list item. I wanted to meet and hang out with Jack Herrer and I crossed that shit off in the early 90s. I’d like to take Carla travelling outside of the United States and show her some of the places I have seen. I’d also like to meet Rick Simpson and OG Eddy Lep.
HL: Where do you see the future of cannabis?
SC: Hopefully in my time, I will see raw cannabis treated in the same way as carrots, spinach, and celery. We all know agriculturally what hemp and cannabis can do and are learning more and more every day.
HL: What other projects do you have on the horizon?
SC: Carla and I are currently producing and hosting The Autoflower Cup 2021 in Lilliwaup, Washington through our cannabis events company Camp Ruderalis, a company focused on roving-rural eco-gastronomic outdoor venues and cannabis immersion experiences. We also have a Pacific Northwest wild psilocybin symposium planned for this November. Also working on a cookbook, I think will be called Camp Ruderalis, Mostly Wild Cannabis Cookery.
Asian food of all kinds are the chef's go-to for health and flavour.
HL: Favourite way to consume cannabis?
SC: We haven’t smoked cannabis in flower form for roughly 16 years, only concentrates and preferably live resin. I’m old school and don’t go for anything fancy. It’s still a titanium nail and a torch for us. I’m not into all the twirly-whirly fancy shape-shifting terp drops. If I need medicine, I want it and need it now. Straight to the point.
HL: What is your favourite kind of food?
SC: Thai or Vietnamese, Pork Pad Prik King or anything tempura. Asian food of all kinds is my go-to for health and flavour whether soup, stir fry, or snack.
HL: Which ingredient can you not live without? (Just one?! Go ahead, which 5 ingredients?)
SC: Sea salt would be the first one I couldn’t live without. Lemons, vintage white cheddar, rice wine vinegar, heirloom tomatoes.
HL: If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be?
SC: Oh, for fuck sakes that is an easy one, James Beard!
HL: What would surprise people most to know about you?
SC: Just because I am in High Times, Weed World, or on TV doesn’t mean anything. We still live off the grid a few months a year in a 50-foot cargo container—by choice not by economics. Learning how to live without the convenience of a drive-thru is important to me.
HL: Other hobbies, interests?
SC: Anything associated with the outdoors, camping, foraging, berry picking, fermenting foods.
HL: Who most influenced you as a man?
SC: Now that you made me think of it… it would have to by my grandfather, Vito Carosi.
HL: Thank you Sebastian for your generous spirit and no-nonsense approach to living, cooking and shouting from the rooftops.
SC: Thank you very much for inviting me to share my thoughts with you.
*Open baskets refers to the practice of sustainably foraging using open holed baskets so that the spores of the mushrooms that have been picked can fall through the holes and spread ensuring a perpetual harvest. Open baskets is the only conscious and sustainable way to forage.
Photos: Chef Sebastian Carosi and Carla Asquith
More about Chef Sebastian Carosi and his projects here
Follow on Instagram at: @chef_sebatian_carosi
Listen on Spotify
The chef has sharpened his knife, completed his mise en place, taken a dab and is ready to get cooking. All that's left is the perfect soundtrack to accompany him in the kitchen and we've got it for you here! Listen to our custom Chef Sebastian-curated "Eat Your Damn Greens Mix" on Spotify.
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