Sure, edibles are sweet, but they don’t all have to be sugary desserts. In fact, popular chefs from across the nation are each making an effort to modernize cooking with cannabis, by steering away from the typical pot brownies, focusing on various infusion techniques and creating strategic pairings based upon cannabinoid effects and terpene profiles. Responsibly-dosed breakfast, lunch and dinner is served; now we invite you to dig in and elevate your perception of cooking with cannabis. CULTURE caught up with six chefs who are leading the way in the cannabis food space.
Chef Ricky Flickenger
“I try to show people [they can] make virtually any dish into edibles.”
Author of Cannabis & the Art of Infusion, Ricky Flickenger of Washington is a self-made chef, with a degree in Psychology. Formerly working with teenagers who were overcoming eating disorders, Flickenger turned his lifelong passion for food into a career. About seven years ago, with experience working in restaurants and bakeries under his belt, he began to teach people how to cook. Fast forward to November 2012, Washington (alongside Colorado) became one of the first two states to legalize cannabis recreationally via Initiative 502. Flickenger found that he personally enjoys medicating with low-dose edibles in the evening to help alleviate high anxiety, panic attacks and sleeplessness.
Early on, Flickenger noticed some unfavorable details regarding food quality and inconsistency with the dosage of some cannabis edibles. “When I started buying edibles, things were mostly sweet; they didn’t seem to be as concerned about quality as just [offering] a vehicle for the THC to get inside of you.” Additionally, Flickenger struggled to understand labels, which were declaring the same milligrams of THC dosage in products, yet presenting drastically different effects. Determined to help others implement exact dosage, he has been teaching a 15-minute method to readers of his elevated cookbook, with an end result infusion that barely changes color and has little-to-no cannabis flavor. “I try to show people [they can] make virtually any dish into edibles,” he said.
Flickenger also offers a mobile chef service in which he goes to a client’s home, prepared with all ingredients and equipment needed, and he teaches them how to cook (with and without cannabis). To widen his audience and make this information more accessible, Flickenger sells interactive recipes that are available on his Patreon page. Patreon recipes are currently not cannabis-based, due to unclear regulations regarding the legalities of doing so on that platform, but he insists all his recipes can be easily using the methods he describes in his book.
Chef Nathan Santana
“[Cannabis is] so flavorful. If you work with it correctly, there’s so much flavor that comes out of it.”
Chef Nathan Santana hosts seven-course, high-end cannabis infused dinners, pop-up style, via his company “Cultured: Create & Destroy.” Experimenting in his home kitchen since childhood, Santana dreamed of culinary school. After working on the line, he moved to Los Angeles, California in 2014 at age 20 to pursue this dream, ultimately obtaining his master’s degree. Experiencing the overdose of his best friend via painkillers, Santana strongly prefers to consume cannabis to alleviate his pains associated with a snowboarding injury, which also helps him sleep.
Recognizing an opportunity within the cannabis food scene to “get more gastronomic with it,” Santana and his partner Botafarm Genetics aim to change perspectives with their pop-up dinners. “It’s not just about getting high; it’s about the food too, and it’s about utilizing the herb for flavor. […] It’s more about enjoying the experience and conversing about it,” Santana said. Santana pairs his partner’s genetics, grown specifically for flavor and scent, with his food in every way imaginable?crumble butters, pasta dough infused with THC oil, and even shaved cannabis on top of the food. “[Cannabis is] so flavorful. If you work with it correctly, there’s so much flavor that comes out of it.” In addition to his pop-up dining events, Santana is the executive sous chef (Chef de Cuisine) at The Wallace in Los Angeles, California. Santana and his partner’s goal is to turn their business into a Michelin-star restaurant that utilizes cannabis in a variety of different ways.
Chef Jessica Catalano
“When it comes to cannabis there’s all different flavors and terpene profiles […] associated with strains and phenotypes. I started a blog [with] free recipes, and within four months it was such a hit that I got offered a book deal.”
Chef Jessica Catalano was one of the first chefs in the world to pioneer strain-specific cannabis cuisine. She authored a book, The Ganja Kitchen Revolution: The Bible of Cannabis Cuisine, which pairs every recipe with strains chosen for their complementary benefit to the dish. “When it comes to cannabis there’s all different flavors and terpene profiles […] associated with strains and phenotypes. I started a blog [with] free recipes, and within four months it was such a hit that I got offered a book deal.” Catalano has always been interested in cooking and had a strong desire to go to culinary school, but in pursuit of a career with more financial stability, she began her professional journey in Buffalo, New York, where she went to school for clinical psychology. At 23, Catalano went to Colorado and got her EMTS certificate working in a detox unit, and shortly after enrolled into culinary school.
Now working as a chef for private dinners and events, Catalano loves cooking in accordance to the seasons, in addition to “ethnic recipes with cultural significance.” Catalano described a recipe for a Vietnamese dish, Lemon Kush Spring Rolls. “The terpene profile from that strain really enhances the flavor profile of all the fresh vegetables,” she said. Checked off her bucket list in 2015, Catalano cooked for Snoop Dogg at an exclusive party for the 2015 X Games in Aspen, Colorado. Today, she’s living in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington, raising her three-year-old daughter, Mary Jane, and working on her own time for public and private events. Catalano hopes that her work will help change the misconception that “cannabis tastes disgusting.” “If done in a proper way, […] it really can be a wonderful thing to cook with, just like we cook with basil, oregano, or rosemary.”
Chef Daniella Davis
“I’m doing different themes every event so people can see the versatility (of cannabis), it’s not just strictly limited to desserts.”
Chef Daniella Davis is owner and executive private chef of Dine in with Daniella, where she caters cannabis pop-events, in addition to offering one-of-a-kind private chef services in Southern California and New York. Cooking since age five, Davis has been a chef on the rise for the last seven years. An avid cannabis consumer and sickle cell warrior, Davis made an important decision to steer away from opioid pain medication. She dabbled with making edibles for personal consumption, until March of this year, when she launched the first of her bi-monthly pop-up events, themed Cocktails and Cannabis, which was extremely successful. “I’m doing different themes every event so people can see the versatility (of cannabis), it’s not just strictly limited to desserts,” Davis shared.
Her great reputation as a chef of non-cannabis-infused foods has contributed to the phenomenal attendance she’s received at each event, in addition to her reach amongst her peers in the cannabis community; among her guests were cancer patients, epilepsy warriors and peers from her sickle cell support group. Her second pop-up in May had a Brunch theme, which included a CBD cocktail bar along with an array of foods and condiments, each uniquely infused with a low dose of medical grade cannabis oils, butters and terpenes. In addition to a BBQ-themed pop-up back in August, she’s hosted 15 private dinners since March, catering to the medical cannabis community. Davis prefers to be interactive with her clients, inquiring their individual needs and, if they desire, walks them through the recipe from start to finish, sharing information on strains and dosage, alongside cooking technique.
Chef Alecia Winters
“There shouldn’t be a shameful feeling when it comes to wanting to naturally treat your depression or anxiety.”
Chef Alecia Winters of Michigan is the owner of Pretty in Pink Edibles, has been featured as a cannabis chef in Forbes and placed in the top 19 home cooks in America on season 9 of MasterChef. As a young single mom, Winters ensured that her son had a healthy balanced diet, learning new techniques from cooking shows and tutorials. Her relationship with cannabis started at 18, when she started smoking to alleviate anxiety and panic attacks, but became more pro-cannabis when family member reached out seeking help getting off opioids. “It really opened my eyes; I did a lot more research,” she said. With experience being criticized by loved ones for being a cannabis consumer and promoter, she wants to help alleviate this feeling for other moms. “There shouldn’t be a shameful feeling when it comes to wanting to naturally treat your depression or anxiety.” Winters aims to open an infusion kitchen where she plans to teach others how easy it is to prepare infused food. The ultimate goal in her future infusion kitchen is to teach people how to incorporate cannabis cooking in to their daily lives based upon their dietary restrictions. A simple recipe Winters recommends is CannaMilk; she infuses it with a strain that has stimulating effects and then adds it to her morning coffee. Although Winters conversations regarding cannabis were not aired in season 9 of MasterChef, likely as that storyline was clashing with her persona as a daycare owner, she hopes to nail her audition and return next season, utilizing the cannabis storyline more appropriately.
Chef Brandon Allen
“I try to make sure that the things I’m serving others and myself are going to provoke the function that I want. Food and cannabis have a synergy and they can be true medicine together.”
Chef Brandon Allen of San Diego, California is a professionally trained chef specializing in paleo and ketogenic cuisine and is director of R&D at the Trichome Institute. Allen suffered from a back injury shortly after culinary school and went in search of a holistic approach to healing. He made a drastic shift from a vegan to a ketogenic lifestyle and reintroduced cannabis as medicine, via microdosing with edibles. With his new diet in mind, he wanted to learn how to make his own edibles, which led to a desire to understand how to pick the best ingredients, which included cannabis. Allen began doing online research about how to determine quality of cannabis and stumbled upon the Trichome Institute, where he eventually received certification in an interpening course; yet his thirst for more led him to regularly read medical journals.
Allen began sharing social media content in March 2017, and within a month he was tagged in a post that led to him becoming the first-ever “High Times Top Cannabis Chef.” Allen has invented the phrase “consumption determines function” to summarize the science behind his thought process. “I try to make sure that the things I’m serving others and myself are going to provoke the function that I want. Food and cannabis have a synergy and they can be true medicine together.” Allen feels that it’s important for cannabis chefs to understand the science behind effects of individual cannabinoids and terpenes when digested versus when inhaled, allowing them to be scientifically accurate with their pairings.