Television shows about food are a pretty big deal. Competitive shows like Iron Chef (running since 2005), Chopped (2007), MasterChef (2010) and so forth have made the art of cooking not just interesting, but thrilling. Likewise, cooking demonstration shows like Barefoot Contessa, and review/awareness shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives have educated and delighted audiences for over a decade. In the end, plain and simple, people like food. And people like cannabis too, which led to the approval and eventual release of Cooking on High on Netflix last Friday.
Declared to best the first-ever competitive cannabis cooking show, many had the highest of expectations. After binging the entire season over the weekend, here is what you can expect from this one-of-a-kind cooking show. Overall, we found it was great for those who want to laugh out loud at some hilarious guests, as well as those who love cannabis themselves and want some munchie eye candy. The downfalls? It may be better for those who love cannabis than those who are expecting your run-of-the-mill cooking competition.
WHAT IT DID RIGHT
Education Is Key
Every episode features a strain, such as Amnesia Haze or Skywalker OG. The show’s in-house “chronisseur,” Ngaio Bealum, brings out a cannabis strain, briefly explain its genetics, what kind of effects it tends to produce, and any notable terpene profiles that it’s known for. Cannabis is, after all, the star here. It’s important to provide this information for the smaller percentage of audience who doesn’t know a lot about cannabis, but is curious to learn more. Likewise, each episode features a “tip” blurb that appears on screen about how cannabis can be infused with herbs, or how high-CBD strains are being used to treat kids with epilepsy.
Unique to a cannabis cooking show, Cooking on High required judges to take an undefined amount of time away in order to let the infused food sink in, and to allow the strain’s effects to kick in. Mainly for entertainment value, interviews with the judge reveal that they begin to show signs of influence, which hits home for those who know the feeling. It may not prove to bring solid judging decisions, but it’s still slightly entertaining and also necessary.
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT
Episodes Are Only 15 Minutes
Avid cooking show fans are used to a minimum of 30 minutes, but normally at least one hour-long episodes. To only receive 15 means that this production company had to cut down many parts of each episode. That means an equal amount of entertaining conversations, in-depth looks at the cooking processes, drama or banter between contestants, are unused.
Inconsistent Show Structure
Cooking on High is only a partial competition in the end. There are no stakes for the chefs to compete, and these chefs (some of which are Le Cordon Blue-trained) are judged by “celebrities” who have little experience about how to properly judge a dish without bias. In the end, the judges often enough ended up picking the dishes that best represented the stereotypical munchie meal (i.e. mac and cheese) that cannabis consumers often crave. The show’s biggest flaw is that it isn’t quite sure what it wants to be yet. It is neither a cooking show where a chef teaches you how to make something, nor a competition where the stakes are high and the winners work hard to overcome a challenge.
Elevate the Message
Eating infused dishes is ultimately about getting high, but the show misses out on approaching the topic from a more professional, legitimate standpoint. Cannabis is a rapidly growing professional industry, especially in the food world. Lose the unnecessary cannabis puns and treat it with respect. Shows like this one are setting the stage for the acceptance of cannabis both nationwide and worldwide, so it’s important to find a balance between not taking the show too seriously, but being able to establish a professional tone.
SEEK TO IMPROVE
Despite its pitfalls, Cooking on High does succeed in delighting its main audience, aka the cannabis consumers. While it’s too early to tell if it will be renewed for a second season, there’s definitely potential. If Netflix’s amateur cooking competition Nailed It!, which release on March 9, was almost instantly renewed and is already returning with a new season coming out on June 29, then there is a possibility that Cooking on High could experience the same treatment. Here’s a few ways that might help the show become more defined as a “cooking show.”
Bring on Experienced Judges
The show’s “celebrity” judges are not very big celebrities, and some have arguable reason to be there. The one thing they all have in common is an affinity for cannabis. The show would be greatly improved if it invited trained chefs who agree to try infused food for the first time, or expand the list of celebrities to include people who are more well-known.
Bring on the Pastries
Cannabis edibles, especially those of the sweet variety, are everywhere. So there’s bound to be many pastry chefs who constantly bake with cannabis, and would be willing to participate. Introducing a dessert element to the show would expand the range of foods, while elevating desserts beyond the typical infused brownie.
Help Chefs Be More Creative
In this first season, chefs were aware of an episode’s theme before it began. As such, they already had their dish picked out, and brought all of the ingredients they needed to pull it off in less than 30 minutes. If the show were to implement limitations, such as mystery box-esque challenges or to have chefs follow a theme such as terpene-inspired flavors, it would spice up the episodes a bit. It would certainly help viewers see how chefs adapt to the challenge, as well as how versatile cannabis can be too.