"Would you like to come to a private cannabis-infused dinner? It is an upscale event with an intimate setting where the chef pairs each plate to compliment terpenes found in cannabis."
Believe it or not, in 11 years of writing professionally about Los Angeles food culture, I've never received such an invitation. At that very moment, my two worlds became one. I'm not a "smoke weed every day" pothead, but as a native of this city, marijuana has been present throughout many stages of my young adult life. And with Proposition 64 to legalise recreational weed in California on the local ballot this November, I knew this moment would happen very soon.
So there I was, Ubering to an undisclosed location deep in the Hollywood hills on a Wednesday night. It was BYOB, but I was instructed that it was best to not drink so that I could feel the intended paired high of the strain used in each course. That undisclosed location turned out to be a huge mansion just bong's throw from the Hollywood Bowl overlooking the entire city. I was quickly flagged to sign a waiver that made me promise I was "not an informant," and also to confirm that I had been legally prescribed medical cannabis. Good thing I had just gotten my license an hour prior via a ten-minute-long, Skyped-in session with PrestoDoctor for my tendonitis.
Once that was signed, I was quickly handed a jungle-green Champagne spritzer tinted with a bit of kiwi puree spiked with ginger, mint, and 12 milligrams of Girl Scout Cookies. I continued to trip the fuck out on the fact that I was about to have a medicated feast in the Hollywood Hills. The other patients who were present at the intimate dinner were just as colourful as you would imagine. There was a blonde woman wearing a practically see-through red dress, a video editor, a cannabis cookbook author, a lawyer who specialised in defending cannabis businesses, an artist, and the millionaire investment banker who owns the home, along with his young Peruvian date.
The company cooking the food for the evening was Elevation VIP Cooperative, INC., a dispensary-meets-medical-cannabis-collective that operates as a full catering service. Legalities-wise, a patient can donate money to them to cook an elaborate medicated feast for them, and as long as every guest has been prescribed medical marijuana and joins their collective, they are good to go. They have been providing medicine to patients this way for years, and their operation appears to be growing strong.
Elevation is made up of chef Andrea Drummer and Hamady Diallo, who deals with the front-of-house operations. As I sipped my Champagne, trying to pick up the the skunky notes from the weed-kiwi syrup, they were both extremely busy in the mansion's spacious kitchen. The menu for the night was: spicy, heirloom tomato bisque fortified with 18 milligrams of Sour Diesel and black garlic, poulet roulade with parsnips and 26 milligrams of Girl Scout Cookies again, and a French vanilla cake with bruleed fig and créme Anglaise enriched with ten milligrams of Blue Dream hybrid for dessert.
Diallo and Drummer are not the type of chefs who are looking for too much attention, probably due to the fact that there are so many grey areas in California's edible business laws. (Though they prefer to lay low most of the time, they were featured in the opening scene in the first episode of Chelsea Does on Netflix.)
From a phone interview with Drummer the day before the dinner, I found out that she is originally from Fort Lauderdale and that her father and brother-in-law, who are both ministers, have accepted her career as a thriving cannabis chef in California. She used to work at a nonprofit before attending Le Cordon Bleu in LA to pursue becoming a full-time weed chef. When I ask why she made this career choice, she responded, "I just found out lucrative it can be, and how much it really does help patients like myself."
From a conversation after the dinner, I found out that Diallo is originally from Mali, West Africa, and that he was raised in DC. When I asked him about what inspired Elevation, he simply said, "As patients ourselves, we wanted a healthier, alternative, organic, locally-sourced way to have our medicine—outside of baked goods and sweets, because there is definitely a shift in the market happening right now." They both have goals of breaking into the pre-packaged, frozen, medicated food market eventually.
The dishes were textbook-perfect and tasted like what you would have at a casual bistro located at a cooking school. Everything was clean-tasting, including the herb's muted flavour through the soup, chicken, and cake. The total amount of cannabinoids for the evening was a very controlled 66 milligrams, which is enough to make even a seasoned patient feel a little funny. Drummer and Diallo are sticklers about controlling the amount, though they will make it stronger if requested. Of course, like any good experience with an edible, I was extremely skeptical of the effects of it until I was blown the fuck out of my mind at the end of the night.
The party escalated very quickly after the dinner. The millionaire and another guest who had shown up late to the party started singing along to 80s songs. (That woman with the red dress was a very good singer, who sounded remarkably like a combination of Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys.) As the night got went on, a man with a saxophone showed up and started performing covers of songs upon request.
It was then that I knew it was time for me to go home and sleep. If this is what the future of recreational weed in California—and its subsequent effect on our food scene—looks like, sign me up.