Cannabis legalization is providing open, normalized access to an ingredient ripe for experimentation. Alternative methods of consumption, like vaporized concentrates and edibles, represent one of the fastest growing product segments in the industry. Manufactured edibles that are readily available at dispensaries are often confections or prepackaged baked goods, and have become more reliable in terms of dosing and potency. Part of the reliability comes from innovation, and no one understands processes like fermentation, the maillard reaction, and the chemical reactions that occur during cooking and baking like trained chefs.
The cannabis industry also represents one of the most welcoming opportunities for women, both with established careers and those fresh to the job market. While women represent about 22 percent of senior management across most industries, about 36 percent of executives in the cannabis businesses are women. A number of female chefs are also making the move to cannabis, embracing the demand for a sophisticated cannabis experience that is rewarding for both themselves and their customers. Here are a few female cannabis chefs who are taking edibles and infused meals to the next level.
(Andrea Drummer photo)
When Andrea Drummer was asked about her decision to become a cannabis chef, she responded, “People never see it coming. I guess I don’t look the part.” Drummer draws upon her experience as chef-specialist for the Ritz-Carlton’s Club Lounge in Los Angeles and Patina food group, a company that provides fine dining experiences to museums and cultural institutions.
Rather than make traditional cannabis edibles, she infuses strains like Blue Dream into some of her signature dishes, including seared duck with cauliflower, chanterelles, with a blueberry gastrique. Her work with a specialized catering company meant perfecting a reliable cannabutter recipe, and the finished product received rave reviews. “With cooking in general, the creative process still fascinates me,” said Drummer.
“Add to that the complexities of cannabis and the intricate challenges that come along with translating it into a fine dining experience, the fascination quadruples. Working with the product tests my culinary capabilities, and forces me to think even more outside of the box than I would normally. It makes me a better chef.”
(Monica Lo photo)
Monica Lo realized quickly the obstacles that a home cannabis baker faces when working with cannabis: the scent. “I was living in a very strict building, and found that the sous vide method was perfect for discreet cannabis infusions,” explained Lo.
“A crockpot or the stovetop method just wasn’t going to cut it with my sneaky landlord lurking around.”
Sous vide has become popular among chefs and cooking enthusiasts who take a scientific approach to cooking, since the process ensures an exact cooking temperature in a vacuum-sealed enclosure. “With the sous vide method,” said Lo, “you place your cannabis in a zip-sealed bag with fats for THC to bind to and submerge the bag in a temperature-controlled water bath with a gadget called an immersion circulator. This method ensures optimal THC extraction without the risk of overcooking, stench, or setting your kitchen on fire.”
Lo’s approach cannabis as an alternative ingredient ripe for experimentation, and she brings that philosophy to her new company Sous Weed. They provide recipes, catering, and creative services for those who have also embraced cannabis as a part of a larger culinary experience.
(Stephany Gocobachi photo)
As the co-founder of Flour Child Collective, Gocobachi uses local and organic ingredients to make her gourmet edibles. “It didn’t make sense to me that in San Francisco, a place with such a strong artisan food culture, that the edibles weren’t at the same level,” she said. “It’s become a little bit of my personal mission to raise the standards of quality in the cannabis industry.”
Making cannabis edibles requires a significant amount of plant material, so sometimes lower quality cannabis is used. Gocobachi instead seeks out higher quality cannabis and embraces the flavors rather than disguises them. “A lot of people comment that our edibles ‘don’t really taste like edibles’ or cannabis,” she said. “They do; they just taste like good cannabis.” Since different strains provide different flavor profiles, cannabis offers an extension to the usual herbs and spices used in cooking. It’s a normalized way of looking at cannabis as another opportunity to create something new, with less emphasis on the psychoactive experience.