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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Three Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

There are plenty of things to consider when planning your vacation. Make sure you have all your bases covered by the time you buy your plane ticket!

Going on vacation is wonderful after months of stress and work. There's just one last hurdle before hopping on that plane: planning.

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when planning your vacation (COVID-19 not least), but putting them in an itemized list helps. Here's a quick cheat-sheet for you to get a jump-start on that.

Vacation VacationUniversity of Kentucky

Remember Your Budget

If you make a budget, which you definitely should, stick to it. Don't spend more than what you can afford when you start vacationing. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so saddling yourself with debt will only dampen the fun of your trip. How much are you spending on living accommodations, food, activities, travel? How much are you setting aside in emergency funds in case something happens?

Plan for the Length of the Trip

Are you going out of town for a few months, or do you only have a week off? How much time you have can affect where you can go and how much you can enjoy it. If you only have a week and a half for a trip, then it's best not to go somewhere that's a 16-hour flight away. Half the trip is going to be spent on planes, and the other half will be spent being jet-lagged.

Trip length can also affect how you have to deal with your home while you're away. If you're away for long periods of time, do you need to hire people to cut your grass? Do you need to hire house sitters or babysitters? There are even things to know if you need to board your dog. Keep all these in mind for extended vacations.

Consider the Weather

You never want to ruin your vacation by heading somewhere beautiful in its offseason. Depending on the time of year, most activities could be canceled due to weather restrictions. Some places are ideal for winter trips, and other destinations are made to be enjoyed during the summer heat. Plan accordingly, and don't show up in a swimsuit when it's 50 degrees outside.

That rounds up the basics, but there are plenty more things to consider when planning your vacation. Give yourself wiggle room if any unique considerations pop up in your planning process.

There has never been a better time to learn a language than right now. While we can't really travel, we can still get ready to explore the world and other cultures through film, music, and food. But the key to all of this is language. It can be hard getting started on your own and so we found the perfect solution: Rosetta Stone.

We've been loving hunkering down and digging into Rosetta Stone, a language learning app with many different languages, the best lessons, and an affordable subscription. It's flexible and made to work for you, no matter what level you're starting at. Jump back into French without dusting off your highschool books or pick up Mandarin with a clean slate.

Thinking about Rosetta Stone for your language lessons? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions:

What languages do they offer?

With Rosetta Stone, you can choose from 25 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. When you get the Unlimited Languages subscription you gain access to all 25 and can switch between languages. While you may be intensely learning German, you can take a break and pick up some conversational Korean — all in one app.

What are the features?

What makes Rosetta Stone's lessons really work are the incredible learning features.

Phrasebook will teach you short, useful expressions that are sure to come in handy during your travels, letting you see the practical application of what you're learning. Seek & Speak brings the fun back into learning by having you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and taking photos of them to get the translated name. Even in an app, Rosetta Stone turns any environment into a classroom.

TruAccent is a speech engine within the program that provides instant feedback on your pronunciation so you know if you're on the right track. You'll grow more confident about speaking aloud and it's like having an accent coach in the room with you.

How long does it take every day?

Rosetta Stone's lessons are bite-sized, so all you need is 5 -10 minutes a day to sneak in some practice and work towards your language goals. Of course, you can do more if you want but there's no regimented schedule or pressure to speed ahead.

How does it compare to in-person classes?

With the Rosetta Stone app, your learning is within your control and designed to move at your pace. The app will tailor to your particular interests, strengths, and weaknesses! Plus, with the recent explosion of online classes, most people have fallen away from in-person instruction anyway.

Rosetta Stone brings you expert teaching, fun engaging lessons, and a multitude of language options all on-the-go. Take your classes whenever and wherever works best for you, conveniently on the app.

Is it suitable for all levels?

Absolutely. When you first start, the app allows you to choose a study plan based on your experience level. So, if you're a beginner you can start from scratch and those with some proficiency can advance to where they're comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month and grants access to all 25 languages, cheaper than Netflix. You get an education at a great value and the best part is no ads while you learn!

We look forward to our Rosetta Stone lessons and highly recommend it to anyone eager to learn a new language or even brush up on an old one. This program makes learning fun, practical, convenient, and most importantly affordable.

Say bonjour, to the go-to language learning app and have the world right at your fingertips!

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!

Like so many out there I haven't been traveling. With everything going on these days I've been staying home, which I love, but it does have me itching to travel. The international section of Netflix just isn't satisfying my travel bug like it used to (trust me, if it's been recommended I've watched it).

I was looking for another way I could travel without leaving home so I did the rounds of take-out food: Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican. This was fun and tasty but a pricey way to explore the world.

A friend of mine suggested taking a prepping approach to travel and try Rosetta Stone: a language learning program that offers an annual plan with access to 24+ languages.

I've always wanted to learn a new language but have had trouble committing. I was a bit wary about starting Rosetta Stone but ultimately decided to give it a shot.

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month for 12 months (what a deal). While I was determined to learn Spanish in anticipation of my dream trip to Spain, this plan allows me to switch to any of the other 24+ languages.

I was excited to get started and use the app. I figured with all of the extra time I had until I could actually go on my trip, I'd aspire to be near fluent by the time it happened.

Jumping right in, I took a ton of lessons through their app and really binged the language. I loved the focus on conversational language, phrases, and vocabulary but after about a week I had burned myself out a bit.

I ended up pulling back and doing 10-minute lessons a day. This was manageable and easy to incorporate into my schedule whether it was by doing a lesson over my morning coffee or winding down right before bed. Learning in bite-sized amounts helped me digest the information and really process what I was being taught.

After a couple of weeks, I was getting really comfortable with Rosetta Stone and was actually enjoying the learning process… even though I wasn't a big fan of language when I was in school. What really set this experience apart for me was the Phrasebook and Seek & SpeakⓇ features.

Phrasebook teaches short, useful expressions that I know will come in handy on my trip. Seek & SpeakⓇ definitely brought the fun back into learning for me, as it has you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and take photos of them. Once you do this it gives you a translation of each item (I've never enjoyed looking for cucumbers in my fridge before).

Watching so many telenovelas I knew how important the accent is (in any language) but difficult without an in-person instructor. Rosetta Stone realizes that too and uses TruAccentⓇ. The speech engine within the program gave me instant feedback so I knew that my pronunciation was on the right track and it made me more comfortable speaking aloud.

Rosetta Stone turned out to be a great choice for me. Now I'm daydreaming about traveling and feel like when the time comes I'll be ready to. I'm so confident in my learning that I've branched out and have done some lessons in Italian and French! I'm thinking, after Spain… maybe Rome and Paris? My destinations list is endless now!

Honestly, with Rosetta Stone, I feel more inspired than ever to travel and all this inspiration is happening right in my home. I can't wait to take what I've learned on the road but until then the preparation is still incredibly fun and useful.

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!