“This is one of the few meetings where I can do this,” begins Chef Laurent Dagenais as he lights up a joint approximately 20 seconds into our scheduled morning Zoom. “I was like, you know what? Might as well for Cannabis Now,” he says, his face lighting up with the cheeky boyish grin that’s been a key to his success as a rising social media star of the culinary world. As he puffs on the joint, an easy charm rolls off him and it’s clear why Dagenais has amassed nearly four million followers across Instagram and TikTok: In addition to charm, he exudes a certain cheffy confidence, without any pretense or stuffiness; the kind that’s made legends out of celeb chefs David Chang and Anthony Bourdain and the kind that’s earned him legions of adoring followers.
Dagenais’ fun, lighthearted approach to fine dining ingredients and plated dishes turned the Montréal-based chef into somewhat of a celebrity—yet he clearly never takes himself too seriously. In his videos, Dagenais can be seen sabering champagne bottles with his kitchen knives, playfully tossing ingredients into sizzling pans or into the hands of his chef friends and, yes, exhaling heavy clouds of smoke in the kitchen. But despite an open and pronounced love of pot, he’s not a “cannabis chef;” rather, he’s a fine dining-trained chef who loves cannabis and isn’t afraid to show its use as part of his authentic self and creative process.
While many chefs credit childhood evenings spent in the kitchen with loved ones as the birthplace of their love of food, Dagenais is quick to admit that his culinary roots were planted elsewhere. “This didn’t begin for me with the story of my Italian Nonna,” he says. After graduating college, Dagenais tells me he wasn’t sure what to do next, so he spent time working in a local skate shop. “My parents were going to start making me pay rent with a skate shop salary,” he says, so he enrolled in culinary school to explore other professional opportunities.
“That’s when the passion kicked in for me,” he says. “It opened up an unlimited world of knowledge and technique.” That intrigue tempted Dagenais out of the skate shop and landed him on the line in a French bistro and then working under a famed French chef who commanded the kitchen with a military brigade style of cooking. “I learned more about cleaning on that job than about cooking,” Dagenais says. “But it helped with discipline and keeping clean and organized in the kitchen. Before that job, I was smoking weed and wanted to party more than work, but it was like I went into the army. I did a year there, which made me more disciplined in the kitchen and in life.”
With a new, sharper focus, Dagenais worked in several fine dining kitchens across Canada before landing at Araxi Restaurant, a top culinary destination in the high-end resort town of Whistler, BC. “I loved it there,” he says. “We had the best ingredients and team, but then I broke my wrist snowboarding. When? You guessed it: on 4/20! I blame the weed,” he says, laughing while relighting his joint. “But that was a pivoting moment for me. I was injured, out of work and didn’t know what to do.”
As he recovered, Dagenais found his way back into the kitchen, but this time, in a very different casual dining environment at another ski resort. “Going from foie gras to nachos probably wasn’t the move, but the season pass and the insurance got me,” he says with a laugh. “I took the job, but it destroyed my passion for cooking in a restaurant. No one was passionate about cooking or cared about organizing the place to make it more functional.”
Looking to reignite the spark, he moved to front of house, experimented with bartending and eventually went on a trip to Thailand that he calls a “culinary adventure,” filled with exploration of every chili he could get his hands on. Upon returning to Canada, he secured a job on the corporate team of a restaurant group where he had great perks, a nice salary and a steady gig. “I should’ve been happy, but I wasn’t,” he says. “For me, it’s always been about cooking—but how can I be happy if I’m not cooking?”
When the pandemic shut down restaurants across the globe in 2020, it was a blessing in disguise Dagenais says. He began exploring content creation, first on YouTube focusing on culinary cannabis, then on Instagram with clips about cooking. “I was having more hype on the straight cooking videos and realized, maybe there’s something about cooking without weed,” he says. He and his girlfriend started working together, shooting and editing videos to post to Instagram and eventually TikTok. “I wasn’t sure about TikTok at first,” he admits. “But the first video we posted to the account was a salmon gravlax. I posted it and went to bed at 11pm. The next day, my phone started popping the fuck off. I went from 10 followers to 100,000 overnight.”
Four million followers later, Dagenais has hit his stride on social media, creating content that gets views and gets him paid, all while doing it unabashedly in his own way. “I’m not playing a character,” he insists. “I’m not trying to be a white jacketed chef—I did that. It’s not me. I’m just trying to have a good time, drinking some wine, smoking some weed. Part of my success is that I keep it very approachable—I’m not a chef in a crazy restaurant; I’m just a guy in a modest apartment using ingredients everyone can get their hands on.”
And part of that authenticity for Dagenais remains rooted in cannabis, even if he’s using it more as a creative spark than the centerpiece of his cooking. “Me and Mary Jane have been close for a long time,” he says. “I never stopped, never quit, never took a break; for me, it’s a lifestyle. It’s always keeping me in good spirits, good vibes, making ideas flow—and it makes me hungrier,” he chuckles, with that signature grin spreading across his face as he inhales one final puff of his joint.
If you love what Chef Laurent Dagenais does on social media, you’ll love the newly released English version of his cookbook, Always Hungry!
“It’s my style in book version,” he says. “It’s got something for everyone.” Featuring 70 recipes, Dagenais was inspired to offer everything from soups and salads to cocktails and desserts suited for home cooks of all skill levels.
“I want it to be fun for people to cook, so this has a bit of my life, a bit of recipes and good vibes.”