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Infusing his meals with cannabis was key to Chef Jordan Wagman regaining his health

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Chef Jordan Wagman wants people "to live cleaner, anti-inflammatory lives, with as few ingredients as possible" | Photo: Courtesy Jordan Wagman

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Growing up in the outskirts of Toronto, eating hotdogs, or “street meat” (as it was more commonly referred to), wasn’t something that fulfilled anything more than late-night cravings. Groups of my friends from Thornhill, a huge Ontario suburb just north of the city, would huddle into our cars after midnight after a long night of playing video games, and head to Finch Station (the first subway car on Toronto’s ‘A’ line to go south into the city), for a hotdog from the 24/7 stand that sold them for just $2. That was life, and a delicious sauerkraut-filled life it was.

However, for a fellow Thornhill-raised Jew, Chef Jordan Wagman (whom I would meet and befriend later in life), hotdogs actually inspired something life-changing.

“I led a canoe tripping program for over a decade at Bracebridge, ON-based Camp Tamarack and I really fell in love with getting creative with food and cooking for people,” said Wagman on a phone call. “Something special was happening when I could take nothing more than manwich meat, hotdogs, hamburgers, potatoes, and vegetables, and make creative meals in the woods.”

But, like J.R.R. Tolkien said, “All that is gold, does not glitter”. Wagman found a passion in cooking but has suffered all his life from psoriasis, a skin disease that often goes undiagnosed, that has made his road to culinary excellence a bit of a winding road.

“I grew up going from hospital to hospital, I was doing homework and taking tests literally from a hospital bed”, continued Wagman. “After camp I moved to Israel for a year for skin treatment, hoping the warmer climate would be easier on my skin; turns out I was right. I was basically doing grueling work during the day so I could ease my skin in the sulfur-rich Dead Sea in the evening”.

Realizing that the cold, unpredictable weather of Canada wasn’t going to help him feel any better, Wagman enrolled himself in culinary school at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, under master chef Klaus Freudenreich. He worked at two restaurants, East City Grille and City Maxx, until he graduated in 1997. After about a year of working in Ft. Lauderdale, nearing the end of 1998, Wagman returned home to help open the Air Canada Center in 1999 as chef of the Air Canada Club, and then the Platinum Club restaurant.

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It was during this time that Wagman married his long time love, Tamar.

“I really, really enjoyed being a newly-wed in Toronto and my experience at the ACC, but cold weather and psoriasis simply don’t get along, we had to make a change”, said Wagman. And so they did: Wagman accepted a role as Chef of Pascal Le Petit Cafe, in Newport Beach, CA and remained in that role for over a year until getting a call with an offer he couldn’t ignore – this time to Colorado Springs, Colorado to become chef at Cliff House at Pike’s Peak, and his career trajectory would accelerate.

As part of the ‘Great Hotel Chefs of America’ series, Wagman was flown to New York City to cook at the James Beard House; he was at the top of his game. Then, one day, while working on the line, he got a call that had been nominated for the James Beard Award, basically the Oscars of cooking.“I was in complete shock.” continued Wagman. “I didn’t win, but it really gave me the confidence boost I needed to keep pushing forward with my dreams”.

Fresh, simple seasonal ingredients are the anchor of Chef Wagman's cuisine | Photo: Courtesy Jordan Wagman

At this point, after a long talk with his wife, Wagman decided to resign from Pike’s Peak and move back to Toronto and with family close, he would face the cold head-on and make it work. Like clockwork, soon after touching down the weather turned and his psoriasis started acting up again, but Wagman was committed to finding a solution. So he sought the advice of a naturopath, hoping that a change in diet was the answer – and he couldn’t have been more correct. First things first, he removed gluten, dairy, and refined sugar; he also started infusing his meals with cannabis to relieve some of the pain he was experiencing.

Within 60-days, his life had changed. Not only had 30 lbs. melted off, but his psoriasis, the bane of his existence for most of his life, seemed like it was starting to get under control for the first time in years, regardless of the weather.

“I felt great and looked great; physically and emotionally I was a different person,” said Wagman. “From that point on, the epiphany happened, and I felt like my life had new meaning: even recently paying it forward via one-of-a-kind culinary experiences ($250 per plate), where it’s more about micro-dosing (both CBD and THC, respectively) and enjoying the food than it is getting high, and writing cookbooks.”

Jordan Wagman co-wrote a book outlining gourmet recipes for baby food

Wagman also maintains a full-time job as director of sales at Accurate Group. “Leading and teaching is leading and teaching; I have the same love for building and leading a team as I do for leading in a kitchen environment.” 

Ironically, though, most of the aforementioned was done behind the scenes, as cannabis was not yet legal in Canada. “I really didn’t come out as a user and advocate until Cannabis became legalized in Canada,” said Wagman. “I have two teenage kids, Jonah, 16 and Jamie, 13, who I needed to set an example for; although they have always understood that cannabis is part of my medicine.”

As the industry (in Canada) has evolved, stigmas have started to ease, and more brands are starting to open their minds to the concept of integrating cannabis, through dinners or simply wanting to expand their offerings. Wagman finds himself consulting with brands of all shapes and sizes to help offer memorable meals that are void of gluten, sugar, and dairy, and with or without cannabis infusion.

From hors d'oeuvres to main courses Chef Wagman has mastered the menu without gluten, dairy or refined sugar | Photo: Courtesy Jordan Wagman

“Ultimately, I just want people to live cleaner, anti-inflammatory lives, with as few ingredients as possible,” said Wagman. “Buy the best (seasonal) ingredients you can, do little to them, and serve … no different if it’s cannabis, tarragon, basil or truffles; they’re all different ingredients and impact a meal in their own unique way”

Wagman lives in Toronto’s Wychwood community with his wife and kids, and remains on a mission to continue paying it forward, via publishing cookbooks (currently on his sixth, WILL, which he plans to publish independently) and other philanthropic activities.

Learn more about James Beard-nominated Chef Jordan Wagman via his website.

Corey Herscu is Director of Media Relations at VerbFactory, a marketing agency focused on technology and emerging vertical sectors. He previously ran RNMKR, a Toronto-based communications agency focused on cannabis, technology, and lifestyle.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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