As states move toward legalizing marijuana, chefs are using the plant in high-end dining.

As the legal cannabis industry emerges, the popular image of marijuana usage is becoming less associated with subculture. Now, creative chefs are staging high-end dining experiences using cannabis, opening up new territory for culinary innovation.

The Herbal Chef (real name: Christopher Sayegh) has been serving up high-end, cannabis-laced dining experiences for just over a year. A former Michelin-starred chef, Sayegh’s multi-course events have included braised oxtail, sous-vide salmon, and ice cream made with locally foraged fruits—all infused with cannabis. Tickets, which sell for $200 to $500, also include wine pairings and cannabis aromatics.

web_-img_1945
Dishes from The Herbal Chef
web_img_1948

“It is a sensory experience,” Sayegh told Leafly, a cannabis news site, in February. “You start to lighten up and really pay attention to certain flavors … if you sit there and eat a pecan and really taste it, it is a different experience than eating it sober. It’s an overall enhancement, just like how a glass of wine enhances a dinner.”

In Colorado, where recreational cannabis is already legal, the Mason Jar Event Group has carved out a sizeable niche. The company hosts stylish dinners, yoga events and live music several times per year. Last spring’s events included a farm-to-table dinner from Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg, complete with cocktail and cannabis pairings.

web_dsc_0970
Mason Jar Event

There are other signs that a high-end cannabis dining industry is waiting in the wings. The Trichome Institute, located in Colorado, trains students to become cannabis sommeliers; the school places graduates at cannabis catering and events companies nationwide.

And although the drug is not yet legal in New York, residents can still take a gourmet cannabis cooking course at The Brooklyn Kitchen (using oregano for practice), or attend an exclusive cannabis dinner from underground supper club 99th Floor.

Public opinion about marijuana has changed dramatically in the last several decades. More than half of all Americans now believe the drug should be legal, according to a 2015 Gallup poll, including 71% of all millennials. And legal marijuana is on the ballot in five states in November, potentially opening up several key markets, including California.

If legalization spreads to other states, innovative chefs are proving that the drug could open new avenues for gourmet cooking and high-end events.

For more, see our coverage of cannabis-infused beverages in our Food + Drink trend report.