Inspired by the way San Francisco Korean hot spot Namu Gaji brings innovative flavors and fresh ingredients to the table, Chef Dennis Lee says he’s doing so with cannabis cooking.
He’s cooking up foods like deep fried marijuana leaves and grilled asparagus drizzled with THC-infused extra virgin olive oil in his kitchen after hours.
“This is a very lose dose so you can kind of use it liberally and not get super stoned,” he says as he dresses it with a dash of cannabis salt.
Lee, 37, began mixing his culinary knowledge with cannabis at home and work two years ago as a way to unwind.
“The restaurant is such a high-stress environment, especially in the kitchen – there’s a lot of partying and substance abuse that goes on, and it’s not sustainable.”
For him, marijuana, edibles in particular, is a healthier alternative to alcohol.
“A lot of stuff in the market at that time was just not very tasty, it was more like a way to get high,” he says.
So, Lee has set out to craft cannabis creations for a more elevated palate. He recently joined Oakland-based cannabis manufacturing company Sublime as Director of Edibles.
Sublime’s most popular products include fuzzies – pre-rolls infused with cannabis oil. Later this fall, Lee expects to roll out his own line of edibles, distributed by sublime, which may include gummies at dispensaries all across California.
“The big thing for me is that it’s losing some of the stigma, because that really was prohibiting a lot of people from experiencing the benefits of cannabis and looking at it objectively just as an herb or a plant.”
Gwyneth Borden is Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.
“It’s really exploding right now,” says Borden. “Everyone is kind of jumping on to the bandwagon and exploring in this space. It’s a huge opportunity.”
Currently, restaurants can only serve dishes or drinks infused with CBD, the non-psychoactive component in cannabis. CBC doesn’t get you high.
Bordon is seeing more restaurateurs and bakers capitalizing on the legalization of marijuana, particularly in the high-end market.
“We’re seeing a lot of people, whether they’re people who have been traditionally restaurant people and bakers, getting into the cannabis space, we’re seeing even food writers and bloggers getting into the cannabis space and there’s also this new high-end market for cannabis,” she added.
For now, Dennis is keeping his cannabis creations off the menu at his restaurant, but hopes to offer CBD as an add-on item to dishes in the near future.