On Bong Appetit, we're trying to show that cannabis can be delicious, that its flavor can be used in a variety of ways to enhance a recipe, like any other herb. So we smell everything, taste everything, and then if we want it to be psychoactive, we look at the recipe and we're like, "OK, what's the best way to infuse this?" Like, maybe we'll use THC olive oil if we want to get people stoned or CBD honey if we want them to relax.
We really work with the chefs. Our pantry is like a giant spice rack that they get to play around with. You have to be careful with flower, though. It's easy to get that green, muddled, flavor, like bitter plant matter—think over-steeped tea.
Take Louis Tikaram. Holy shit, is he a talented chef—and his palate is insane. He makes this salad dressing in a mortar and pestle, with these deep-fried chiles. So, I was like, "Let's also deep-fry some cannabis buds." We took one batch pretty far, so it got pretty crispy. And it had this slight acrid, bitter taste to it—I could taste it, but I insisted, "No, it'll be fine; let's throw it in there." And then he tasted the dressing and he kind of gave me this look like, "I'm getting a little hint of bitterness." And I was like, "You fucker." And he was right!
I've had a really good time experimenting with the leaves. I actually didn't even know you could eat them until the first season of Bong Appetit. No one cooks with them! They've always been what you throw away, but they're beautiful—they're just so iconic. They have almost no THC, so most people just focus on the flower. But when we did the episode with Wes Avila from Guerrilla Tacos, we tried the leaves and we were like, "Oh, they're kind of like shiso," so we topped the uni tostadas with them. And they were delicious. Young cannabis leaves are super-tender, and their flavor is kind of intensely grassy. With basil and other leafy herbs, you get a much more specific flavor, but with cannabis, it's definitely called "grass" for a reason. So they're bright, very green—really good in salads. You can just throw them into anything, and they're beautiful.
I also really want to try making cannabis-leaf pesto. I made so much pesto when I lived in Rome—kale pesto, cilantro pesto. All kinds. I think if you mixed cannabis leaves with other herbs, they'd be rich and creamy. Maybe with cilantro or mint, and walnuts instead of pine nuts. I bet if you got the bigger fan leaves they'd make killer dolmas, too.
But fundamentally, if you're using flower and you're trying to get high, you don't have a lot of options.
Flower is alcohol-soluble and it's oil-soluble, so you can make a butter, make an oil, or a make a tincture. On the show, when we're grating some flower into something we're making, that's just for flavor. It won't get you high. We just think it's fun to get a little bit of that flavor in there, kind of like an herb, like dried oregano. That's been really fun to play with, because for the most part, in my career, it's been about taking away the cannabis flavor, and now it's about putting it back in.When I first started cooking with cannabis, I used cold-water hash. I thought if I could take most of the plant matter out, I wouldn't have green, muddled flavors in my caramels. I'd just have this really pure product. And now, I take that even further, and use a distillate, which has no flavor. You can't taste it, can't smell it; it just gets you high.
Down the road, I'd love to start adding that flavor back into my chocolates. In the first season, we made a s'more with a chocolate that I'd added Tangie Terps to—they're like very citrusy, like a chocolate orange. Terpenes are expensive, but I thought it'd be cool to have different chocolate bars flavored with a pure expression of a given strain, so maybe you have a Tangie chocolate, or Blue Dreams chocolate, or Girl Scout Cookies chocolate. And it works! It's good! I mean, chocolate tastes good with everything. You could cover a turd in chocolate and it'd taste good.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
New episodes of Bong Appetit air on VICELAND on Wednesdays at 10:30 PM. Find out how to watch here. If you have the MUNCHIES in the interim, check out these Bong Appetit recipes.