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Q&A

Now we’re cooking with pot

Los Angeles-based chef and writer known as JeffThe420Chef.
Los Angeles-based chef and writer known as JeffThe420Chef.Leela Cyd

First things first. Yes, there’s a pot brownie recipe. Heath Bar canna-butter brownies, to be exact. But “The 420 Gourmet: The Elevated Art of Cannabis Cuisine,” a cookbook from the Los Angeles-based chef and writer known as JeffThe420
Chef, includes 100 recipes. With medicinal marijuana legal in 25 states, including Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia, the audience is growing for more-sophisticated edibles — like, say, latkes with cana-pear crème fraiche, krazy kale and hempseed salad, or hazy Thai wings.

JeffThe420Chef’s recipes were created over five years as he cooked for people with medical marijuana recommendations, many of whom were battling serious illness. He developed his own technique for infusing cannabis into canna-butter and canna-oil that are more mellow-tasting, while still imparting the psychoactive and therapeutic effects of cannabinoids. The chef, who also runs cannabis cooking classes, says he uses a pen name to keep attention focused on his work rather than his personality. “I like to keep a little mysterious,” he says.

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Q. What’s the advantage of delivering medical marijuana through edibles?

A. For patients I cook for, they don’t want to smoke. They either can’t smoke because they have health issues and they can’t do it, or they don’t want to do it because of the health detriments of smoking. When you eat cannabis, it takes a lot longer to kick in, but it lasts a lot longer. If you’re suffering with PMS, you want to make sure you can work throughout the day.

Q. If you add cannabis directly to food, how does it affect the taste?

A. It’s a unique taste, unique to the point that it permeates every dish. When I was cooking for this woman who had cancer, she said: Your edibles are amazing and they work very well for me. But the issue is that everything tastes the same. Is there a way that you could possibly get rid of the taste?

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Q. How did you do that?

A. I realized the taste came from the chlorophyll and a lot of other things. I did some research and I realized that if you soak cannabis in distilled water for a couple of days, you can leach out a lot those impurities, including the chlorophyll. There was still a taste, but it was a lot less pronounced. Then I realized that if I blanch it I can take out more of the taste. And then I draw it into what they call decarbing [decarboxylating], which is heating it — putting it in the oven so that you’re actually opening up the THC.

Q. You then use it to infuse butters and oils for your recipes.

A. It’s the delivery system. They’re fat-soluble. You now have infused butter or oil that can impart the cannabinoids into your system.

Q. Why not just buy edibles at a dispensary?

A. There are two things you don’t know. Number one, you don’t know the strain that it was made from. If you’re cooking yourself, then at least you know you’re cooking with a strain that you’ve used before and helps your condition. The other thing is dosing. According to the Colorado Department of Health, and I think it’s pretty much universally accepted now, 10 mg is the standard for one dose of cannabis. If you have a cookie that’s 100 mg and you have to divide that into 10 pieces, are you really sure that the pieces are going to give you that 10 milligrams? I would prefer to have a really delicious-tasting homemade cookie where I could have 3 or 4 of those cookies before going to bed, if I’m making insomnia cookies, versus one bite of a cookie. In the dispensaries, for the most part, they have the cannabis taste.

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Q. Is it possible to have an entire meal without overdoing it?

A. That’s actually one of the things I teach in the cookbook, what I call responsible hosting. I’ll cook for eight people, but maybe only one of those people is going to be medicating. The way you can plan it out is, number one, understanding how cannabis works and how dosing works. One of the important things is understanding the potency of the butter or oil you make, and that all starts with knowing the potency of the actual herb you start with.

Q. Is the cannabis Shabbat menu in the book something you make for your family?

A. Both my parents have medical recommendations and they both suffer from pain. We have “pot Shabbat” sometimes. A lot of times actually. Those are recipes that are pretty traditional. Everything from the matzo balls to the gefilte fish even to the brisket can be infused. It’s a really fun thing to be able to do.


Michael Floreak can be reached at michaelfloreak@gmail.com.