When Will Chefs Be Honest About Smoking Weed?

I’m not a consumer of weed, but it interests me—it has the precise dimensions of a food geek’s pursuit. Modern cannabis is a product of botany over decades. Like 18th-century amateur gentlemen gardeners in France, patiently breeding some ideal of the perfectly perfumed pear, serious weed cultivators are pushing the boundaries not just of human pleasure, but of our species’ complex symbiosis with plants.

It’s more than that, of course—I do believe that cannabis has a role to play in pain management, as a palliative, something that can restore the spirit, and lend a kind of psychic dignity to patients suffering the daily drag of illness or disability. We’ve always looked to alcohol, wine or spirits, to do that, in limited ways.

Which brings me to chefs and other people passionate about food: Why aren’t we more honest about weed? Roy Choi is. This week, Choi hard-opened POT, his Korean place in the Line Hotel. Choi is a huge pothead. Like an Acura with blackout windows in a high school parking lot, Choi’s Twitter feed is hotbox-hazy. POT is a serious restaurant, but Choi has taken care to dip the rollout in a super-dank mix of stoner jokes and visual puns.

Could Choi be the only prominent chef to speak truth about his love for trees? Let’s be honest, cooking for a living is a grind. A lot of chefs unwind with weed, the way a lot of other Americans chill with weed. Up to now, mashups of weed and food have been Harold & Kumar–ish, goofy stoner-jokey, in books you’re likely to find on the Urban Outfitters gift table, not in Williams-Sonoma cookbook racks.

Something’s stirring, though: Legal recreational status in Colorado and Washington, plus a greater overall interest in edible forms of cannabis are bumping the needle for weed cuisine, but there’s a long way to go until most chefs could feel comfortable going public about their taste for the green. Serious talk of weed in the kitchen had a brief moment, in 2010, then got hustled out the back door quicker than it came in. Me, I’m waiting for the day chefs can talk openly about the mineral terroir of kush from the limestone schist of the Mendo hills versus the concentrated fruit from the clay of the Carneros valley. Cuz I know you guys talk about this stuff already, in private. Don’t pretend like you don’t.

Website image from POT

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