Grilled Backyard BBQ

Cooked with Cannabis Review S01E01
27 April 2020
Cooked with Cannabis Grilled Backyard BBQ

Grilled Backyard BBQ

Run time 00:35:50
Guest Judges: Elle King (singer), Jo Koy (comedian), Ricki Lake (actor), Mary Lynn Rajskub (actor)

Series synopsis: Cooked with Cannabis is a cooking-based competition featuring three chefs competing to create the best dining experience with cannabis infused food. Kelis (singer) and Leather Storrs (professional chef) are the hosts of the show and the primary judges. Each episode also features several celebrity guest judges, often actors, comedians and singers. The chefs has to create a three-course meal, appetizer, main and dessert, to compete for a single episode prize of $10 000 USD. All the judges try each dish one at a time and comment on the flavour, but only Kelis and Leather (what a great name!) discuss how well cannabis was incorporated into the dish.

Episode Contestants

Amanda Jackson

Originally from the state of Georgia, Amanda is a professional chef who attended Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, trained under Chef Stephen Kuney, and was an executive chef by age 26. She is driven by the opportunity to break stereotypes and the remove the stigma of cannabis. Learn more about her here.

Cynthia Sestito

From East Hampton NY, Cynthia is a veteran cannabis chef of 20 years, honing her skills in the legacy days when cannabis was illegal, providing infused menus to private clients. Although she is a master in her craft, she claims not to enjoy eating edibles.

Nathan "Nate" Santana

Claiming to be from Los Angeles, Nathan is a pro cannabis chef of 10 years. Nathan draws inspiration for his dishes from the California skateboarding culture and is focused on building a positive cannabis community.
Warning this episode review contains significant spoilers from this point on. If you don’t want to have anything ruined about this episode, don’t read any further.

Episode Review

In the premier episode, each infused dish was tasked to feature something cooked on a BBQ. With the series being launched in early spring, I was ready to be inspired to get out with my own BBQ in the warm sunshine. BBQ sounded like a great idea… until you notice within the first couple views of the studio kitchen that an essential aspect of a professional kitchen was missing, the exhaust hoods. Granted, they would be in the way of the cameras and are often not visible on competition cooking shows. Alternative ventilation systems can be designed to get rid of smoke and grease that don’t block the money shots. It becomes apparent very quickly into the episode that this specific studio does not have those alternative ventilation systems. For anyone who has BBQ’d before, you would know that the grille makes a lot more smoke than cooking on the stove. Kelis and Leather start getting smoked out and are noticeably agitating. Set crews are frantically trying to vent the space with large fans out of an overhead door but the smoke becomes a recurring problem for our hosts. Hopefully the show makes some better decision about featured cooking methods in future, or improves the ventilation before they write a flambé episode!

A Cooking Canna is the base substance that contains the extracted THC. This could be butter, oil, cream, tallow or honey. Things that you would combine with other ingredients to make infused food.

Before we get into the dishes that each chef made, an important thing to point out that the show did a poor job of highlighting is that each chef was required to decarb and infuse their own Cooking Canna. All three chefs made infused butter, however Nate was the only one to make other things, like infusing a neutral flavour cooking oil and mezcal. Other commercial Cooking Canna’s were made available to the chefs like honey, olive oil and a THC powder. Including these products smells a lot like product placement. I’m not sure these chefs would have chosen these ingredients on their own. With the skills that the contestants have, why would they buy an infused olive oil when they can make their own and personalize the strain and flavour notes? My main take away from this is that there are way more infused products available in the US than in Canada. I would love to be able to buy infused honey or this mysterious THC powder that supposedly dissolves quickly into water. Alas, us Canadians must be more industrious and make all of our own Cooking Cannas until Health Canada smartens up.

The Appetizer

The chefs had 30 mins to make the appetizer. Amanda made grilled corn gazpacho (I had to look this up, it’s a soup), Cynthia made grilled figs with gorgonzola and Nate made habanero grilled broccolini. They each added their own sparkle to the food, something extra that most of us wouldn’t do ourselves. Amanda used some auto-smoking device to soak the gazpacho with fresh pot smoke. Cynthia drizzled an elder-flower reduction on the figs and Nate garnished his grilled greens with grated bud. The judges enjoyed each dish but Amanda was an early flavour favourite with the gazpacho. When it came time to discuss cannabis, only Nate had real answers, with a well-planned dose of 2 mg and the taste of raw flower. Amanda and Cynthia both insisted their food was microdosed but only Cynthia gave a half-hearted guess that there was 3 mg THC in her figs.

The Main

The main meal got 45 minutes of attention from the chefs. I’m not going to spoil too much here because, in my opinion, the main dish is the prime attraction of each episode! You should watch it yourself, become inspired and then eat something equally delicious. Amanda’s highlight was making an infused piri piri sauce while Nate was spreading some THC-Poblano-butter on something he described as “juicy” and “slutty”. I had a real problem with what Cynthia made because it included an unnecessary, exotic ingredient that also caused her to mess up her dish. One of the main reasons I want to watch a cooking show is to live my best food fantasy, become inspired by something that looks or sounds delicious. Then either make it myself or find someplace that will make it for me. First, using an exotic ingredient already puts my food fantasy at a disadvantage, second, screwing it up doesn’t help me live my best food life.

At this point it is good to point out that Kelis and Leather aren’t providing much commentary, neither play-by-play nor colour. The show so far has relied on what the chef’s can say while they’re in the middle of hustling to get their food ready. It has become clear that Cynthia is a great chef, but she is not very personable. Her descriptions and commentary don’t provide much confidence that her food will taste great or have a reasonable amount of THC in it. For the main, Nate again chose 2 mg of THC per serving. Nate clearly knows what he’s doing by adding the THC in the Poblano-butter after the main parts have already been cooked. Subjecting THC and other cannabinoids to high heat after the cannabis has already been decarbed will destroy them. Some short amounts of cooking won’t make a large noticable difference, such as baking at 350°F for 30 minutes. Harsher cooking methods like grilling and frying will quickly erode all the THC you’re trying to infuse into your food. Both Cynthia and Amanda put their THC infused foods right onto the BBQ, essentially destroying any credibility that they can provide a precise dosing of THC in their dishes. As for flavour, Amanda edged out the others with her choice and the piri piri sauce.

The Dessert

Making dessert bought the chefs another 30 minutes of cooking time. Amanda went for a peach and mango crumble and Cynthia tried to simplify things with what looked like a grilled fruit cookie. Nate had gone the extra mile and had pre-made a pie crust back in the appetizer stage. He was making a mango pie. Both Nate and Amanda chose to make their desserts CBD forward, although Amanda’s is more like a CBD smack down. Theoretically, this should provide you with an earlier cool-down from the THC high as the CBD competes for receptors in your endocannabinoid system. But after a 105-minute-long meal, and knowing how long it takes for eaten cannabis to kick in, you’ll likely already be on your way down once the CBD hits your bloodstream anyhow. Cynthia claims to be aiming for the same thing with a dessert that’s only got 2 mg of THC in it but then proceeds to burn it all away with high temperature methods. Her goal of 2 mg being a cool-down really questions how much she actually put into her other dishes. She claims her other food was microdosed but yet, 2 mg THC is so much less that it will help you calm down. At this point, all of the guest judges are quite stoned and loved every dessert equally, although when pressured, Nate’s pie wins out on flavour.

The Winner

For me, predicting a winner was an easy task. Only one chef displayed a high calibre package that was the complete integration of cannabis and good cooking. That chef was Nate. Nate had a plan about how potent all of his dishes were going to be and was also able to deliver. His dishes were simple enough to resonate with the audience’s food fantasy, yet stretched our imaginations to get our mouths salivating. Cynthia suffered from food that was to complicated and she didn’t have time to execute. Additionally, she had no idea how potent each one of her dishes were. It wasn’t clear if she had a dosing plan at all before then destroying the THC by cooking it at high temperature. Amanda can clearly make great tasting food but she also suffered from her poor understanding of what high temperature does to cannabinoids and how important precise dosing is with infused food. Of all the chefs, Amanda relied the most heavily on commercial Cooking Cannas, using the least of her own infusions.
All three contestant are very talented and capable of making good food, but this show is about making the best infused food. Several specific strains were featured like Mimosa and Dream Queen but we know that the strains that are available in California (where this show is filmed) may not be available where you are. Rather than encouraging you to feel disappointed when you can’t find the exact strain that was used in the show, I encourage you to go explore the strains available to you at your local cannabis stores. After experimenting with a few different strains, you’ll be equipped to customize the flavour notes of your infused foods and truly make some knock out treats that won’t knock you out.

Episode Verdict

The first episode of Cooked with Cannabis was rough around the edges. Some good moments, but nothing great. I really like Leather Storrs, he has some natural charisma that draws you into the show and all the chefs were very talented. The infused food they made looked delicious and some of it is even within my grasp of making at home. Although it wasn’t a homerun, the first episode showed enough potential that I’m willing to give this series a three-episode try-out. Many great shows have rough starts before the writers hit their groove. I’m hoping that’s what happens with this one.

copyright Friendibles 2020

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