Professional cannabis chefs have one of the coolest jobs ever. Then again, it’s hard enough to put together a spectacular meal in the kitchen without the added challenge of incorporating the perfect amount and type of cannabis for each dish. How do canna-chefs do it?
To find out, we talked to three professional cannabis chefs:
- Chef Monica Lo, creator of sous-vide cannabis cuisine site Sous Weed, trained at the Institute of Culinary Education and recently shot the Sous Vide at Home cookbook;
- Chef Scott Peabody, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and gained more than a decade of experience before taking an executive chef position at San Francisco’s Nomiku;
- Chef Jose Rodriguez, who first earned his chops in high-pressure kitchens of New York and currently works as a chef for Google.
From how cannabis makes them better chefs to their favorite munchie recipes, here’s what they had to say.
How does cannabis make you a better cook?
Scott Peabody: Using cannabis as an ingredient (as opposed to merely as a psychoactive additive) is especially intriguing to me as a chef because it’s still largely uncharted territory. Cooking with cannabis is tricky, because you have to strike a balance between THC extraction and flavor. If you get overzealous in the pursuit of the absolute maximum THC extraction, your end product may turn out bitter and skunky—we’ve all had edibles that taste like this. Remembering that cannabis is, in fact, an herb, I treat it as a culinary challenge like any other, and so it becomes a lesson in restraint and finesse—the skills to strive for, because they separate great cooks from mediocre ones.
Monica Lo: I find that I am a more creative person when lightly medicated and I’m definitely a sativa diva. But more often than not, I make my meals and snacks using raw cannabis for all the wonderful health benefits, not the psychoactive effects. The herbaceous flavors are fairly mild and can be easily incorporated into many dishes. Like Scott mentioned, it’s a largely uncharted territory and [it’s] fun figuring out how to integrate this ingredient into everyday meals.
What are your favorite recipes that home cannabis cooks should try?
Lo: I really love [Sous Weed’s] fresh cannabis chimichurri recipe. Raw cannabis is such a nutrient-dense veggie with many beneficial cannabinoids and is a potent medicine. It’s also non-psychoactive before heating so you can enjoy all the health benefits of this miracle plant on top of a juicy skirt steak. But if you want the psychoactive properties along with all the health benefits, you can just swap regular olive oil with the medicated version!
Peabody: Dank dulce de leche is such the thing. If you want to make anything from banana bread to salted caramel ice cream just a little more cosmic, this is a wonderful ingredient. When done correctly, the cannabis flavor is subtle but pleasant, adding an interesting herbaceous note.
Jose Rodriguez: A Last Word cocktail infused with cannabis. Cocktails may not be considered a meal but it’s definitely something I like to indulge in while cooking!
What things are important to think about in planning an infused meal?
Peabody: As is the case with anyone who makes cannabis edibles on a small scale, controlling dosage is our single biggest hurdle. Because the guests at our dinners will have a wide range of tolerances, our goal is to accommodate everyone by a) knowing the dose in individual items and keeping it fairly low, and b) serving condiments with a higher dosage, so people can increase their dose ad libitum.
What are your favorite munchies, and as a chef, how do you dress them up?
Peabody: My answer has to be spaghetti alla carbonara, which needs no dressing up. Though many Americans mistakenly think of it as fancy restaurant fodder, natives of Rome, where the dish originates, often eat carbonara as the ideal midnight snack, to be indulged in after a night of revelry. It’s quick and easy to make, and I almost always have all the necessary ingredients on hand: parmigiano (or pecorino), guanciale (or bacon), eggs, and dry pasta. Embrace the low-key fanciness. Runner up option (if I’m too high to make carbonara) is popcorn, which I typically dress up by adding finely grated cheese (such as aged cheddar or gruyère) and chili flakes.
Rodriguez: I must agree on popcorn but I prefer it with caramel.
Lo: Lately I’ve been indulging in açaí bowls. Açaí, berries, and banana slices are all ingredients I keep in my freezer and all I need to do is dump it into my Vitamix with some coconut water and honey then puree until smooth. I top it off with some crunchy granola and toasted coconut chips. This sometimes doubles as my dinner while I’m binge-watching Game of Thrones.
Photo Credit: Monica Lo / @sousweed