Gourmet Marijuana Chefs: The New High Culture of Cannabis

High-end chefs are bringing THC to the table with cannabis-infused cuisine.

"Chefs are in the pleasure business," the late Anthony Bourdain told Men's Health in a 2012 interview. "It's important to understand your subject. If you know what it's like to be stoned and hungry at one o'clock in the morning, it's helpful when you're trying to create a menu for people who are stoned and hungry at one o'clock in the f**ing morning."

In fact, prior to his death, Bourdain was a long-time cannabis advocate who managed to highlight a cross-cultural appreciation of cannabis-infused foods as he explored global cuisine and made exacting social commentary on his series No Reservations and Parts Unknown. The chef enjoyed Cambodian "happy pizza" with a "powerful herbal component...that makes you insane in the membrane," sampled a quail egg cured with cannabis smoke in Copenhagen, and learned how Moroccan cannabis cooks prepare mahjoun, a hashish delicacy of chocolate, nuts, fruits, and honey.

Moroccan hashish mahjoun CBD Magnates

In the U.S., cannabis chefs across the country are carrying on the tradition of culinary cannabis as a simple pleasure, countering a western tradition of weed criminalization and social stigma dating back to the "Reefer Madness" of the 1930s. Marijuana is now legalized in nine states, opening the door for chefs to broaden their menus and offer cannabis-infused fine dining to American palettes. For customers 21 and over, a niche group of gourmet chefs are offering cuisine prepared with cannabis butter, CBD oil, cannabis flowers, and low-dose THC infusions. Among this cohort of James Beard Award winners and chefs trained in Michelin-star kitchens, pro-legalization activism meets culinary artform as they prepare innovative dishes that destigmatize and surprise with one of the world's oldest medicinal plants.

In Los Angeles, top cannabis chef, Christopher Sayegh, founded his catering company The Herbal Chef after he realized how misinformed he'd been about marijuana and its benefits. "I had been lied to," he says. "Once I started to do more research into it, it was really about becoming an activist and telling people this plant really helps people in a multitude of ways, not only medicinally but the human race industrially, as well."

But the food remains paramount. Above all, Sayegh hopes that customers appreciate the nuances of textures, flavors, and the dish as a whole, rather than view gourmet marijuana cuisine as glorified edibles. The Herbal Chef offers meals infused with an average dose of about 10 milligrams of THC, but no more than 15. The 25-year-old chef asserts, "The way I look at it is that people shouldn't be so fixated on the THC and the cannabinoids. They should be fixated on the food. The food comes first."

Chef Chris Sayegh holding THC and CBD oils and cannabis budsReuters

True to his word, Sayegh's menu includes delicacies like smoked salmon topped with poached strawberries and spiced meringue drizzled with bourbon caramel. All ingredients are purchased from local vendors in the L.A. or Santa Monica area, according to The Herbal Chef's website, and "occasionally menus will feature produce from the chef's personal garden." Sayegh hopes to open his first restaurant, Herb, in West Hollywood by the end of 2018. He plans to use the restaurant as a "culinary showcase," offering a 10-15 course tasting menu that presents information on the benefits of cannabis. "Under it all," Sayegh reflects, "We just genuinely care about bringing people the best-of-the-best ingredients and having it infused with the best-of-the-best cannabis."

Hamachi with lemon gelee, radish, salmon roe, and uni (sea urchin).The Herbal Chef

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Mindy Segal is a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef who's spent 30 years working in high-end kitchens, including the Michelin-starred Charlie Trotter's. Her recipes for Mindy's Artisanal Edibles are dedicated to balancing quality ingredients with clear distillate to enhance every confection's flavor with tasteless THC. Segal's expertise began with high-quality chocolates, which are available in 50 or 100 milligram doses in tempting flavors like Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee and Marshmallow Graham.

Like Sayegh, Segal is led by her drive to create innovative and quality flavors for her customers. By branching out into gourmet edibles, her passion for marijuana advocacy intersects with her craft. She reflects, "I'm new to the market but I'm not new to marijuana. I wasn't like one of those mad-scientist chefs creating my best way of extracting marijuana. I dabbled in it for fun. I felt I could apply my baking experience to marijuana edibles. My motivating factor was helping people. It's what I do in my industry anyway: I make people happy."

Segal recently launched her 2nd line of medical cannabis edibles, "Mindy's Kitchen," offering gummies, hard candies, and fruit chews infused with a combination of Sativa, Indica, Hybrid, RSO, or CBD oils. Each confection is designed to preserve the integrity of the flavors, from sour to tart. Candies are available in 100 milligram THC packs, with individual pieces infused with 10 or 25 milligrams.

Mindy Segal's chocolate brittle and granolaChicago Reader

On the future of legal marijuana, Sayegh and Segal share a passion for advocacy through their culinary arts. Sayegh lobbies for his cannabis-infusion restaurant, decrying the government for "gouging an industry that is trying to help people," while Segal affirms, "I am an absolute advocate for legalization of marijuana on all levels. I completely believe that it has medicinal qualities and I believe that it has a great recreational value."

Mindy Segal predicts, "It's going to be like the Wild West. A lot of people, including large corporations, are getting their feet wet already and getting in the game." Other like-minded chefs already include San Francisco-based Michael Magallanes, who uses coconut oil infused with cannabis powder as an understated glaze. New York's Miguel Trinidad gives each strain its own flavor profile to enhance other ingredients, and Denver's Scott Durrah offers health-conscious menu options infused with sativa or a featured lemon-flavored strain.

Anthony Bourdain wrote in a 1999 essay, "I love the sheer weirdness of the kitchen life: the dreamers, the crackpots, the refugees, and the sociopaths with whom I continue to work...In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit." As the next culinary frontier, gourmet marijuana is attracting the type of politically conscious and creative misfits who call for reform in and out of the kitchen. Bourdain credited professional chefs with unique qualifications to spearhead marijuana advocacy: "Everybody [in professional kitchens] smokes dope after work. People you would never imagine. There has been an entire strata of restaurants . . . created specially for the tastes of the slightly stoned, slightly drunk chef after work."


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung

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I don't know about you guys, but working from home has taken a serious toll on me. It started off really well. I was sticking to my usual routine as much as possible, but I've been slowly becoming less and less productive.

I noticed my sleep schedule had completely changed. I was rolling out of bed a few minutes before I was due to start work, and sometimes even working from my bed. I ate lunch at the desk and worked straight through my scheduled breaks. I was sleepier throughout the day, unable to focus as much, and just feeling less motivated overall.

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This is important because it separates your work from your home. Our homes are associated with relaxing, so designating a space that will be used only for work will help you concentrate on work while you're in that space. I also found that doing this helped me actually take appropriate breaks. When I left the space I was in relax mode, and once I came back, I was ready to work again.

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Everyone knows that working out in ratty clothing isn't very motivating.

Studies have shown that the right workout gear drastically determines how hard we push ourselves on cardio or at the gym. But high-end fashion clothes are never high on our shopping list, and a well-fitted pair of spandex can run up a hefty price tag. But as quarantine has forced us all to reevaluate our workout routine, workout clothes matter now more than ever.

But instead of blowing the big bucks on white-owned brands like Under Armour, we should use this time as an opportunity–while BLM protests happen across the country–to put our money towards black businesses as much as we can. This, of course, includes workout clothes. So here are some reliable Black-owned brands that are high quality and won't break your bank.

Yema

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Founded in 2016, Yema Khalif and his wife, Hawi Awash, opened this fitness brand to help educate and feed the latter's home country of Ethiopia. All proceeds go towards helping to educate and feed at risk children in Ethiopia, and their fitness offerings are all beautiful and hand-made.

Culture Fit​

Culture Fit

Designed specifically for black women, Culture Fit's sleek design and well-ventilated workout gear is worth the money. Designed by women of color, each matching pair of active wear also can include a matching yoga mat, so you can really be looking your best when you hit your zoom yoga class!

Vero Mastodon

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Made popular by men and women who served in the military, Vero Mastodon offers breathable, flexible fitness clothes for all the heavy lifters out there. Their exclusive app also offers training programs by certified trainers and power lifters to help you get shredded and transformed.

Pru Apparel

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Focused on its message of community and pride, Pru Apparel is for every type of woman. Inspired by Africa's culture and rich history, the breathable clothing sets feature Kente cloth and come in a wide array of sizes. Not to mention, the prints are super trendy.

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This gorgeous activewear was born for the culturally conscious. Made for women of all skin tones and shapes, the workout gear was designed for the sole purpose of empowering and motivating. Their high-waisted spandex and quality mesh provide a collection of breathable fabrics that move however you do.

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Inside Chaz, Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

After nine days of standoffs between Seattle Black Lives Matter protesters and the police, at last the cops ceded the area to the revolution.

What is Chaz? Depends on who you ask.

Technically Chaz is the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone," an area of Seattle that has become a quasi-experiment in what a completely police-free state might look like. After nine days of standoffs between Seattle Black Lives Matter protesters and the police, at last the cops ceded the area to the revolution.


"On an almost nightly basis, the SPD has indiscriminately used excessive force against protesters, legal observers, journalists, and medical personnel," read an ACLU lawsuit that played a role in finally pushing the police out of the precinct, opening space for a new experiment in government (or a lack thereof).

Now Chaz is the subject of ire, suspicion, rage, and hope. Its origins happened rapidly. After the police ceded the area, protestors set up boundaries and barricades to create a protected zone of about six square blocks.

Currently the area sounds like a utopian dreamscape, a commune slash co-op that comes complete with film screenings, free food, and a growing People's Garden. There's a medical tent and a makeshift Mutual Aid library. There's a medic station, a "No Cop Co-op" where people can get free supplies, a shrine made up of candles, flowers, and pictures of George Floyd and the countless others who have been killed by police. Protestors have screened films including 13th and Paris Is Burning. Murals and paintings fill the street.



What Is Chaz: A Block Party, an Antifa Hub, or a Revolution Waystation?

Conservatives, of course, are absolutely losing it. Trump described the protestors as "Domestic Terrorists" who "have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!"

Twitter has become completely overrun with conspiracy theories about the town and what it means. One Twitter user started a rumor that a SoundCloud rapper named Raz was becoming the zone's "Warlord," which was simply false.

Others are horrified, calling the town an Antifa stronghold, or an anarchist establishment that's threatening American democracy.

Reports from people on the ground beg to differ. "The CHAZ is not communist. It's not socialist or anarchist either. Most people here might subscribe to one of those ideologies, but mostly it's just an extended BLM block party," wrote one Reddit user.


The Future of Chaz

No one is exactly sure what Chaz will become. Some believe that the police will eventually retake the autonomous zone; but for now, the town will stand as a testament to the power of protest and possibility.



Others want Chaz to become the beginning of a momentous change. Some of the zone's inhabitants have drafted a list of 30 demands, which include abolishing the police, banning the police's use of arms in between now and when they are abolished, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, providing reparations for victims of police brutality, decriminalizing protest, providing a retrial for all people of color convicted of violent crimes, demanding release for anyone incarcerated on charges relating to marijuana, and much more.

Organizers are beginning to shape a makeshift government in order to actualize these goals. At Chaz's first Town Hall. "The goal was to hear speeches from local Black and Indigenous leaders, and then to break up into small groups to brainstorm ways to address concerns about trash, traffic, helping small businesses, establishing accountability structures within a non-hierarchical social arrangement, and whatever else came up," writes Rich Smith in The Stranger.

The main question the organizers grappled with at the meeting was what to do with the empty East precinct, but certainly bigger questions will come up. Some want to see the zone establish its own council. "It's very important that we get a council going of elected representatives of the CHAZ zone," said a protestor and Chaz resident named Malcolm, who works with Black Lives Matter Seattle. "Since you guys are going to be our sovereign state, you guys have to get that going immediately."

But some members want to avoid picking organizers, preferring to stay away from the fragility and corruptibility of leadership. Some approve of more anarchist models of organizing, others focus on anticapitalist ideals, and others keep returning to the movement that launched Chaz in the first place—the anti-police-brutality Black Lives Matter protests launched by the killing of George Floyd and 400 years of oppression.

Most organizers emphasized prioritizing Black and brown voices, but still, the town is certainly not free of the racial tensions that inspired the movement that created it. Some already fear that Chaz and its white occupants, in particular, are distracting from the Black Lives Matter movement, applying their own agendas or even treating the commune like the dreaded Coachella.

"As the protests continue across the United States, we risk finding ourselves lost in the same pattern of unproductive behaviors that have long plagued the country. An obsession with modes of racial protests rather than with the meaning of them belies an unwillingness to face the flaws they expose in the nation's ability to live up to its ideals and fulfill its obligations to the citizenry," writes Theodore R. Johnson in The National Review.

Similar problems plagued another memorable movement-inspired village: the outpost that cropped up during the Standing Rock protests in 2016. In those years, Standing Rock turned from a place where Indigenous tribes could reunite to a sort of gentrified Burning Man, forcing leaders to request that the encampment's white occupants learn to listen more and request fluoride-free water less.

At marches across the nation, Black Lives Matter organizers are reminding the thousands of people who have shown up for the cause that this movement cannot be an Instagram trend or another hashtag. Racism isn't something that can be shut off after a few weeks—it's lifelong and pervasive—and hopefully everyone showing up will stay in the fight long after the initial whirlwind has slowed.

The same fate could befall Chaz if things go south. On the other hand, perhaps this new settlement will fare better. Perhaps it will be the start of a new world—a new America where the police are replaced by mental health counselors and free food. Most likely the result will be a combination of both, but for all intents and purposes that seems to be Chaz's goal: to see what might happen in a world free from police violence, where people keep each other safe as long as they can.