Edibles have long been part of the cannabis experience. What was once primarily relegated to brownies and sweets is now a booming, diverse market of consumables. An October 2018 report from ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics projected that the legal North American edibles market will reach $4.1 billion by 2022.
Sweets remain in the picture, but now there’s a menu full of delicious foods and beverages crafted by some of the top chefs in the world. Cannabis offers these culinary masters versatility and new avenues to express their artistic creations. And judging by the reception, guests often love what’s being served up.
In many markets around the country, guests have options for which type of event they’d like to attend. Some are food-centric, with the evening mirroring any tasting menu – just with cannabis added to the mix. Others are more like catered affairs. Here, edibles are offered up on trays by staff as guests mingle and focus on vendors, networking or other primary aspects of the evening.
There are events like Dankquet, a members-only cannabis supper event. It is held by The New Society for Wellness (NSFW), a cannabis and sex-positive private members club. It has featured chefs like Oscar Toro and Brayden Vlack at past events. Some items on its menu have included white gazpacho, fluke crudo and ricotta cheesecake.
Twenty Past Four is a series with infused dining put on by duo “The Trill Cooker” Chef Jose DeJesus and Chef Chris Cedeno. There, live performances and infused meals are brought together. Guests get to enjoy items like infused duck demi-glace, octopus carpaccio accompanied by a radish salad drizzled with THC-infused extra virgin olive oil and arancini stuffed with smoked mozzarella and prosciutto topped with an infused truffle cream sauce.
Each month, the pop-up focuses on a theme. They have included a circus dinner with live acrobats. Others include a salsa theme where a Latin-inspired, CBD-infused menu and live music awaited guests.
Others, like Chef for Higher, is run by “Hawaii” Mike Salman and his wife, Stephanie. They have branched out to cater for a diverse line of clientele, ranging from corporate client gatherings to members only pop-up supper clubs.
There is no one clear cut path to becoming an infused chef. Some are world-renowned chefs with Michelin stars while others are new on the scene and making a name for themselves working on a chef’s team, just as you would see at any restaurant.
The duo behind Twenty Past Four came together after combining their years of experience in the culinary space. Chef Chris Cedeno has been working in the restaurant industry since 1999, learning from chefs like Jean Georges and Charlie Palmer.
In 2013, he was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He turned to cannabis to treat a series of ailments. He then found himself cooking with THC and CBD oils. This led to pop-up tasting menus.
In 2018, Chef Chris would link up with “The Trill Cooker”, a contestant on season 18 of the Gordon Ramsay-hosted Hell’s Kitchen, and launch Twenty Past Four.
“Hawaii” Mike Salman’s career began in hip-hop, where he was a road manager to the group Mobb Deep. He would eventually work for The Source Magazine as manager and editor of several areas of the publication. He then went on to serve as co-founder and editor-in-chief of INKED Magazine. Later in his career, he would move into the cannabis space in branding before heading into the kitchen.
After a partnership failed to materialize in the kitchen, “Hawaii” Mike went at it on his own. In an email, he explained how he took his next steps into the business.
“I got really good at making confections, gummies in particular. At the same time, I started doing Sunday dinners with friends and would infuse whatever we wanted to eat, from mac n cheese to Korean style fried chicken,” he said. From there, his original business plan pivoted once he saw reactions from consumers. “The original plan was to introduce the gummies so we could create a line of products for legal markets. So, we did our version of a “tupperware” party. The food we served was a hit and everyone in attendance said we should do a dinner party.”
The first supper club would happen in August of 2015. By May 2019, Chef for Higher celebrated its 45th month of operation.
Those looking to attend may find the task difficult if they aren’t in the know. The scene in New York remains rather hushed due to the legal status of cannabis and other possible factors. “There’s definitely a scene, but so much of it is word of mouth,” explained Daniel Saynt, Founder & Chief Conspirator of The New Society for Wellness. “Smaller dinner pop-ups and some monthly events come through New York, but there is still some fear until it’s legal.”
A spokesperson for Twenty Past Four called hosting events in New York “nerve wracking”, noting that every event comes with worry. “We have built Twenty Past Four to be an exclusive club of members, but the worry is still there.”
The Chef for Higher team doesn’t feel as concerned. Outside of New York, the company hosts events across the US and considers the city its home base. Growing up in San Francisco, and being around the music and fashion scenes have made the plant always close to “Hawaii” Mike.
Regardless of the legal status, his stance and goal for the company remain the same. “Either way, cannabis is a healing plant that has coexisted with us since before recorded time, we will always have a relationship with it. Our goal is to help educate people on how to utilize the plant in their lifestyle from when to dosing, we can help guide you.”
Despite the legal hurdles in New York, growth seems to be on the minds of many infused chefs. NSFW has a partnership with Opulent Chef Michael Magallanes and TopStone Projects coming soon. Twenty Past Four is talking about expanding beyond the New York/New Jersey area, and Chef for Higher is looking for opportunities to produce events on the international market.
As the industry grows, consumers may find themselves with improved access to such events. If so, it is wise to keep in mind that while some tastings focus on THC, it is not about getting high. “I find the events that elevate the experience of food first are most important in the budding cannabis dinner scene,” explained Saynt. He noted that NSFW loves pairings over infusions. In this situation, people find great strains to pair with various courses in the meal. “It’s a way to have a taste of cannabis at your own pace keeping the meal safer.”