While marijuana was once commonly thought of as a recreational drug consumed by smoking joints, it has evolved into something much more sophisticated and innovative. With increased clinical studies on cannabis, the plant and its cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids have been linked to a host of medical benefits.
And while cannabis may smoked, vaped, or eaten, today's inventive chefs are showing the world how cannabis can be enjoyed as part of a culinary experience where both our taste buds and our psychological senses can be heightened with cannabis-inspired dishes.
A handful of chefs are blazing a trail in the world of cannabis-infused cuisine, bringing to light both the benefits of cannabis and its place in the world of food.
Here are some of the top cannabis chefs in the United States.
Curry, who graduated from New York's Culinary Institute of America, has plenty of experience in the kitchen, working in restaurants in San Francisco and St. Helena. He’s even taught at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona.
His culinary style centers around whole plant comfort food, which he's brought to life through his whole-plant edibles company, Flourish Cannabis. The company’s products encompass sweet and savory medical CBD and THC edibles such as dips, sauces, ketchup, mustard, fruit jam, chocolate taffy, caramels, and low-glycemic brownies.
Curry's Flourish Cannabis edibles are available in various dispensaries across Arizona and California.
With a background in molecular cell biology and molecular gastronomy, Chris Sayegh learned how to cook on the job in restaurants in Santa Monica and New York.
While he pairs cannabis with food, Sayegh is careful to make sure that the integrity of the dish is maintained without compromising it in the name of adding cannabis. His dishes are designed to create a culinary experience with CBD and THC serving as a healthy accent.
In 2015, Sayegh launched The Herbal Chef, hosting private cannabis-centered dinners. He's also appeared as a speaker at the National Restaurant Association conference in Chicago, educating attendees about cannabis cuisine and the marijuana edibles market.
With an impressive resume of launching five restaurants since the early 1990s, Scott Durrah's culinary style perfectly blends Caribbean cuisine with a healthy flair.
In 2009, Durrah opened Denver’s Simply Pure with his wife. The company launched a line of savory and sweet edibles a year later, which includes treats such as organic, vegan, and gluten-free cannabis products with a varied flavor profile.
Durrah also caters private cannabis dinners and prepares cannabis-infused meals for retired professional athletes dealing with pain as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medication.
Cannabis chef Monica Lo's place in the world of cannabis cuisine involves combining the "sous vide" technique with cooking with marijuana. She co-founded Sous Weed, a company that creates high-quality cannabis cuisine and helps clients find infused recipes that they can make on their own.
Many of Lo's recipes are created in collaboration with well-known brands in the cannabis industry.
Jeff Danzer's background is in fashion and marketing, but his interest in food led him to educate and train himself in culinary cuisine. Known as "The 420 Chef," Danzer created a process to develop cannabis-infused butter and coconut oil that are light in flavor but loaded in effect.
He's touted for using only purified cannabis and teaches his process in classes. He is also involved in preparing cannabis-infused meals for promotional events and private clients, and has authored “The 420 Gourmet: The Elevated Art of Cannabis Cuisine”.
After gaining culinary education and experiences at Chicago's Kendall College Culinary Arts School and in various restaurants across the city over the past three decades, Mindy Segal has become a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and has even authored a best-selling cookbook, “Cookie Love”.
Segal first entered the cannabis scene by dabbling in recreational marijuana, and has since taken her interest in cannabis and infused it into her sweet creations.
In 2005, she founded Mindy’s Hot Chocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar, and in 2016, she began working for cannabis cultivator Cresco Labs, where she has been tasked with developing medical CBD and THC edibles, such as chocolate brittle, caramels, and hard candies.
Lewis is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco and worked as an intern at Fifth Floor restaurant in San Francisco. She also has plenty of experience as a chef at San Francisco's Bix and The Front Porch.
Lewis got her start in the world of culinary cannabis by creating edibles for medical cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco. She then moved to Denver, where she founded Mountain Medicine, a company that develops medical and recreational marijuana edibles. Her line of edibles includes s'mores, cinnamon-apple pie bar, and even fruit leather.
Carroll got her start in the world of culinary cuisine after being taught at San Francisco Cheese School and graduating from the San Francisco Cooking School. Since then, she's experimented with infusing cannabis in her creations and helped launch Madame Munchie in 2014, a bakery specializing in medical cannabis macarons.
Carroll also started the Cannaisseur Series, which hosts monthly brunch and dinner events in San Francisco that serve cannabis-infused appetizers and dishes, such as polenta cakes and gnocchi with parmesan.
Like Chris Sayegh, Michael Magallanes, too, has a background in molecular gastronomy, and fuses his background with a "NorCal" vegetarian flair to create unique cannabis-infused culinary delights.
Magallanes trained while working at San Francisco restaurants Mourad and Aziza, eventually venturing outside of the restaurant industry to launch Opulent Chef. The company holds cooking workshops and private dinners, both cannabis and non-cannabis based.
He's known for using hash in his dishes and ensures that it complements well what he's pairing it with. Magallanes uses just a hint of hash in an effort to dull its potent flavor.
Fans of “Top Chef” will likely remember Hosea Rosenberg; his affable nature and culinary skills made him one of the show’s more popular winners.
Rosenberg’s restaurant in Boulder, Blackbelly, hasn’t yet started serving cannabis dishes. But Rosenberg is a cannabis consumer and advocate, which led him to join a number of chefs who are specializing in food/cannabis pairings. Think of these as similar to wine dinners — a selection of cannabis products is paired with different courses that compliment the effects of the strains offered. Rosenberg has partnered with Mason Jar Events to develop and prepare the menus for cannabis dinners in Colorado.
These cannabis chefs are setting the stage for a new sector of the cannabis industry that perfectly pairs cannabis with the right foods to create a culinary experience like no other. From creating award-winning edibles to staging fancy dinners, these chefs are helping to reshape the cannabis world and how others view it.