. . .that every life is a journey and that one should value that journey, even more so than the destination. If all that is true, few people have more to appreciate about their journey than the person we are about to chat with.
A man who has adopted the moniker “JeffThe420Chef,” and has traversed an unlikely path from New York fashion executive and marketing wiz, to notable cannabis chef. JeffThe420Chef, or Jeff, as we will now refer to him, has built a completely new life direction.
Owing to his extensive marketing skills and in a blur of motion, he has launched himself into the spotlight as a celebrity cannabis chef.
To say more would be to offer spoilers to this very interesting conversation.
So please, get comfortable and join us as we have a great conversation with Jeff.
Interviewed by David Brickley
I’ve settled into a comfortable chair here at a funky but charming cafe on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood.
Across from me is Jeff, a chef who specializes in preparing private cannabis-infused meals – often for celebrities.
We are here to discuss his life – personal and professional – and the journey that brought him to where he is now.
So Jeff, welcome. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
It’s great to be here.
To start simply, where are you from, originally?
Where am I from? I grew up right here.
Oh, I thought you were from New York.
Well, I spent the last thirty-two years in New York. I moved out of LA not too long after I graduated Fairfax High School. I spent one year at Valley College (in San Bernardino, CA), and then I moved to New York.
What brought you to New York?
At the time I just had to get out of LA.
Trading one big city for another?
“Yeah, I was full of energy and LA just seemed too slow for me. I was like a New York kid trapped in an LA situation – at the time my personality was very “New York.” Now, I’m back in LA and love it! I’ve slowed down a bit, learned to ‘smell the roses” and I’m thrilled to be back and loving what I’m doing.”
Yeah, I was full of energy and LA just seemed too slow for me.
I was like a New York kid trapped in an LA situation – at the time my personality was very “New York.” Now, I’m back in LA and love it! I’ve slowed down a bit, learned to ‘smell the roses” and I’m thrilled to be back and loving what I’m doing. It’s a whole new story now. Back then, I was a real go-getter, now I’m a doer.
No Jeff, you are still a go-getter.
But it’s different. Back then, I was really into fashion and marketing. And I dove head first into that business. I really wanted to get into fashion and build a brand… and I did! I very successfully helped build one of the top men’s fashion underwear brands in the country, 2xist.
As Executive Vice President of Marketing, my team and I have been credited with successfully putting 2xist on the map. We took them up from a small specialty brand and built them into a global megabrand doing tens of million of dollar per year. So that was really, really successful.
You took that brand national.
Yeah, when I joined the company they were a really small niche brand that not many people knew about. I actually found out about them when I was on a business trip to LA. I had forgotten to pack my underwear and purchased a pair at a small men’s shop in West Hollywood!
I thought they were awesome, felt great, had nice packaging and could compete with Calvin Klein. I became obsessed with the notion that I could build 2xist into a powerful brand and reached out to the then President of the company and told him so.
I told him that I could build his brand into a mega-brand like Calvin Klein and gave him a plan. He humored me and I chased him for almost a year! Then I found “the golden ticket”, an article in a trade publication about Calvin Klein.
And in the article, it said that “Calvin Klein” was wearing 2(X)IST underwear with the waistband clearly visible under his “Calvin’s” – those were pretty much the exact words, and I ran with it! I faxed the article to the President of 2Xist and said “Hey, if you hire me, I will let everybody and their mother know what comes between Calvin and his Calvin.”
And they said, “How will you do that?” And I said, for starters I’m going to make a thousand copies of that article and put a little yellow sticky on it that says “We know what comes between Calvin and his Calvins – 2(X)IST.” They hired me on the spot and we did it. From there, the brand just blew up – totally blew up. It took five years and it grew from a niche brand doing less than two million a year to over twenty million dollars when I left. Crazy right?
Not, brilliant. Crazy brilliant.
(chuckles), thanks, I love marketing, I’m a marketing guy. It’s fairly easy to market someone else’s brand but when it’s your own brand, it’s a bit more difficult. There are many ways to build a brand, but to really be taken seriously your brand has to be built on a foundation of trust, integrity, credibility, and transparency.
And the only way to establish credibility and the integrity of the brand is to actually do it. Which is what you saw in the Elite Daily Video and read in The Daily Beast and Newsweek articles about me. To build JeffThe420Chef, I actually have to do everything it takes to make it what it is.
In fashion brands, there’s a lot of credibility by association. Because so-and-so is wearing such-and-such, that must mean it’s an awesome brand. But with what I’m doing, there is no credibility by association – other than testimonials from people who have actually tried my stuff. For the most part, the testimonials are starting to be more CBD-driven [“CBD” is a medicinal compound in cannabis], because I’m focusing a lot of my attention on actual medical patients who can benefit from cannabis “medibles.”
“Last weekend I prepared my “stoned pepper pecan noodle pudding” for a woman who had knee surgery six months ago and had been experiencing debilitating pain since. She called me the next day in the best mood shouting into the phone…Oh my God, I have no pain!!! I’m now teaching her how to do it herself. And that makes me happy!”
So the credibility comes from many different sources – including, of course, the occasional celebrity event or television show. But no matter what, the food I make has to be good, and it has to work. There is no greater feeling than having someone I cook or bake for, tell me how well the edible or infused meal I prepared worked for them!
Last weekend I prepared my “stoned pepper pecan noodle pudding” for a woman who had knee surgery six months ago and had been experiencing debilitating pain since. She called me the next day in the best mood shouting into the phone…Oh my God, I have no pain!!! I’m now teaching her how to do it herself. And that makes me happy!
Sounds good, you should have brought some.
If only it were legal to. It was CBD-rich. Very, very low THC. It won’t get you high. She ate half of the pudding as soon as I gave it to her. Even I enjoyed it, it was really good.
Tell me about growing up in LA.
What about it?
What about it… Big family?
I am the oldest of four brothers. Grew up in the orthodox Jewish community here.
Yep. I believe in God but I’m no longer orthodox. My parents and a couple of brothers still are though.
So, food in the family was an important thing?
My mother is a great cook. Growing up she was always cooking. We were a family with four boys, and like most growing boys, always hungry. I learned a lot from her. From spicing to baking, stuff like that.
So, you were around someone who cooked well, and that rubbed off on you.
Of course it did. And when I went to college in New York, I didn’t have that good food anymore. Because I was living in a dorm, I had to eat out at cheap places. So I ended up buying a hot plate and any other small cooking appliance I could use in a dorm, like a crock pot, and I started cooking – for myself and for my friends..
Is this the first time you actually set about cooking?
For others outside of my family, yes. I always cooked at home for myself, when my mom wasn’t around or whatever, and I would dabble in the kitchen. But when I moved out, I had to fend for myself.
It was serious then.
Yeah, I wanted to eat good food and I didn’t want to pay astronomical prices. I would have a steak dinner in a restaurant, and at that time it would be $15 – now it’s like $30. And I’d think, “You know what? I can do this better myself.”
And that was what…? thirty-two years ago. I was like nineteen or twenty.
What kind of restaurant serves your comfort food?
“I’ve always loved American comfort foods like Mac & Cheese, fried chicken and stuff like that. That’s all good. But I also love to go to restaurants that serve unique and different foods from different places and cultures. I’m a foodie and love a lot of different types of cuisine. When I fall in love with any type of good I learn how to make it myself.”
I’ve always loved American comfort foods like Mac & Cheese, fried chicken and stuff like that. That’s all good. But I also love to go to restaurants that serve unique and different foods from different places and cultures. I’m a foodie and love a lot of different types of cuisine. When I fall in love with any type of good I learn how to make it myself. I’ve always loved American comfort foods like Mac & Cheese, fried chicken and stuff like that. That’s all good. But I also love to go to restaurants that serve unique and different foods from different places and cultures. I’m a foodie and love a lot of different types of cuisine. When I fall in love with any type of good I learn how to make it myself.
So, you go to a restaurant for adventure.
I guess you can say that. I’m always looking at menus, trying new things and figuring out how can I make this at home.
You ever asked the waiter how the food was made?
Not really, a lot of the key ingredients are already on the menu. It’s fun to figure out how to bring it all together on my own. I love to sit around open kitchen areas and watch the chef’s cook!
If that is your focus, if that’s what you’re constantly aware of, you’d be like a sponge, soaking up the information from all around you.
Yeah I just love it.
I sense all of this work with cannabis is an expression of that.
It definitely is! I learn from everybody and apply that to everything I do
What college did you attend in New York?
I went to Yeshiva University for 2 years and then to Touro College. I graduated from Touro college. In the midst of that, I spent a year and a half in Israel milking cows and working on a dairy farm.
There’s nothing better than travel.
True that! I’ve traveled all over the world, from Jerusalem to Mount Everest and the Arctic. I’ve been all over the place.
Mount Everest, this is your connection with the Sherpa you were talking about (before this interview began)?
Yeah, I climbed to Basecamp, a little under 18,000 feet. At the time one of my brand clients sponsored Eric Larsen, an arctic explorer who summited Everest as part of his Save The Poles expedition. I went up to interview him on his way down.
So you went to Basecamp, did “you” go to the top?
No. I went just to Basecamp. Basecamp is a little under 18,000 feet – it’s an amazing hike. It took three weeks total, there and back.
18,000 feet is no laughing matter
Not a laughing matter all, and neither is Basecamp. You know what happened a couple of months ago. The avalanche? My sherpa, now a friend, was caught in that.
Your friend was in that?
Yeah. He was pretty badly injured but thank God he survived.
Oh… how’s he doing?
Better now, as a matter of fact he just sent me a text that he’s doing better. He broke a bunch of ribs and his arm was shattered. He needed serious surgery.
I’m pleased to know that he’s better. So what was your direction in school?
Was that was your “Plan A?”
Yeah, I just figured I’d get into business. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but things started leading in a direction, and I ended up in the fashion business, just like I wanted.
How long was it between graduating and the story you told about Calvin Klein?
14 years. I was already married and had my first son, who was five at the time.
And when did you graduate?
So by the time you did started working for 2(x)ist, you were already established, you knew what you were doing.
Yeah. I had already risen to the level of Vice President at several different companies. My focus was marketing and licensing. I was marketing for jewelry companies for a while, then toy companies. After that, a watch company. I loved what I was doing and was doing pretty well.
So you arrived at their offices (2[x]ist) pretty street wise.
(chuckles) I guess. Somehow I just knew exactly what I had to do to build that brand. I was, like, “I got this.”
When you started getting involved infusing cannabis in food, I remember reading the story of a friend of yours whose mom was unfortunately suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, and so you helped her by providing…
I’d cook and bake for her, just to make her feel better. I’d bake her cakes and stuff like that.
What was it that kept you going in that direction.
It was just automatic, I didn’t have think about it. I was like, let me make your mom a cake. There were also a few other things that were going on at the time. A family member got sick with brain cancer (sadly, he passed away last July) and I was teaching another family member how to make him infused brownies.
Making him edible brownies?
“I taught a family member how to extract the medicinal compounds from the plant and how to make pot brownies and cookies. And as I was teaching him, a light bulb when off and I thought, “Hmmm…we can do more than just make cookies and brownies to help.” That was the initial inspiration to really cook with cannabis. That was four years ago.”
Yes, he had a prescription for medical marijuana. I taught a family member how to extract the medicinal compounds from the plant and how to make pot brownies and cookies. And as I was teaching him, a light bulb when off and I thought, “Hmmm…we can do more than just make cookies and brownies to help.” That was the initial inspiration to really cook with cannabis. That was four years ago.
You are a healer. I’m sensing that’s what drives you. What I keep hearing from you is that there is a deeper calling for you.
Funny you should say that. I was just in Portland and a woman there said, “you are a shamanic archetype.” I asked, “What do you mean?” She said, “Everything you do is about healing and philosophy.”
I don’t want to inject my opinion in here…
No, No, That’s cool, she just told me that. I was like, wow…
Exactly, there’s a deeper calling here for you.
I hear it. That’s why I’m doing everything I can to help people heal with cannabis infused edibles. I have a cookbook coming out in June (June 28th) called The Ganja Gourmet: The Joy of Cooking with Cannabis, being published by Harper Collins.
I also just launched the first ever THC/CBD calculator which helps people making edibles, determine the amount of THC and CBD in every serving they make. Then a podcast or “pot”cast launching in April, a series of cooking videos launching around the same time and lot more that I can’t talk about just yet, including a TV show which I hope will air next April.
My big dream is to eventually open a recovery center that helps people reintegrate back into daily life after a debilitating illness, with the use of cannabis infused edibles. I’m working with a lot of great people to make all of this happen and I’m incredibly grateful!
You work to put something out there, and you feel the energy coming back. That’s when you know you have created something that is vital to other people. They embrace it.
People really do; they want to be part of it because it helps other people and they feel that deep down. All these people, and this is my opinion, but all these people that I’m meeting now – in my mind at least, were already predetermined, predestined.
It’s as if these people were sitting on the sidelines, building up their lives, but they somehow knew that it’s all leading towards something and this is that one thing that was predetermined, way, way before we even came into this world. This is what we have to do. I can’t tell you how it works, but it’s amazing, really amazing. In ways that I can’t even fathom.
Have you heard of this water experiment, where water molecules changing shape with intention?
Let me get it for you. I want to make sure I get the guy’s name right. Ok, here it is. The name is Dr. Masaru Emoto.
Ok, tell me why he’s important.
So, this just goes back to the flow of the universe and understanding how the universe works. When you put something out into the universe with intention, the universe conspires to make it happen because you put your thoughts into words and thoughts are things. Right? Dr. Emoto said, “I’m gonna test this theory.” I’m going to do it with water bottles.
Basically, he filled a bunch of water bottles with plain water and labeled each water bottle with an intention. One was labeled ”love,” one labeled “gratitude,” one labeled “faith.” And on another he put the intention of negative emotions like ”anger” and “fear.” All these different emotions. Right?
He actually felt that emotion as he labeled them and put the bottles in the freezer. He wanted to see if his intention transferred to the water and if so, what the frozen water molecules would look like in each bottle?
So, for example, to set this up right, you hold the bottle and you focus your intention on the bottle?’
You focus your attention on the water.
And then you conjure up this emotion.
And then he looked at a drop of that water under a microscope. And look at what he discovered…
Ok so we are looking at a video of Dr. Massaru Emoto on YouTube?
No, you can see on YouTube if you want. I just want to show you the pictures here of his results. Read what it says underneath these pictures.
I’m seeing five pictures of water molecules before a prayer and the same water molecule after a prayer. Before a prayer image looks like an amoeba, a blob… and after a prayer looks like a snowflake. The water molecule exposed to “You make me sick and I will kill you,” wow, looks like the surface of the moon. Love and appreciation looks like a snowflake. These are wonderful.
All the positive emotions look like different snowflakes. But they all have different properties if you look closely
All the water molecules seem to have six sides and the more love expressed, the more complex their beauty.
Exactly! So, now if you understand that our bodies are more than 60% water, you can see how our emotions actually physically change the dynamic flow and the energy within our bodies.
Oh, that’s true, interesting.
And water is energy. Your energy comes through the same way my energy comes through. If I’m in an angry place, and I’m thinking not positive thoughts towards you, the energy here that you see around me will be negative and very unappealing. The water molecules within me would probably look like a blob.
Oh I see.
Or it’s going to look like that, the moonscape.
Jeff, you actually look like a snowflake right now.
[Laughs] Yeah, right? So when you look at somebody who’s energy is in a positive place, meaning that the water within their body is exuding that positive energy, people start to sense that. I still don’t understand what they are seeing or understand why but there’s a beautiful effect to it. I’m fifty-two years old, do I look fifty-two? I’m told that I look a little bit younger.
I was thinking about it this morning, Jeff is in a great place for being about in his early thirties.
Thank you. I think that comes from the energy I’m feeling inside. I don’t have a lot of anger or pent up emotion or hostility. I mean, I do get upset, and when I get upset you can see my age. I look much older if I’m sad.
Well I have to say you survived thirty-years in New York
Thirty-two-years in New York, remarkably well.
“I survived a horrendous divorce which set me back financially in a major way, but my kids, parents, extended family and friends have all been there to support me. And I’m actually grateful for the experience because I wouldn’t be where I am today had I had not gone through that. If I had let the negative energy of the whole ordeal get to me, I’d probably look like I’m ninety…and we wouldn’t be having this interview!”
I survived a horrendous divorce which set me back financially in a major way, but my kids, parents, extended family and friends have all been there to support me. And I’m actually grateful for the experience because I wouldn’t be where I am today had I had not gone through that. If I had let the negative energy of the whole ordeal get to me, I’d probably look like I’m ninety…and we wouldn’t be having this interview!
I’ve been there, in so many ways, I’ve been there.
So, you know, I think a lot of it has to do with the intention you have within yourself. When you’re upset or struggling or not 100% sure of where you’re going or what you’re doing, people see it. Sure, I may still be struggling financially, but that pales in comparison to the fulfillment I feel every day doing what I love, and knowing that ultimately it is going to help countless people better their lives.
If I could offer, I don’t see struggle. I just see work.
The work in front of you is the work you have to do.
I think it’s an internal struggle, because I want to get it all done now. It has to get done. God blessed me with this opportunity and it’s now up to me to make it happen and not waste the opportunity! The struggle is time and financial resources. But I breathe easier knowing that the universe makes sure it all comes together exactly when and how it should. So there’s a flow and it works.
Oh nice. You do have to go through the journey of making all this happen.
And that’s the best part.
So back in New York, when you were in your day job and you had this cannabis project that you were working on the side, where – and I don’t know what the time line is – you were helping to medicate your friend’s mom.
Yeah, that was simple. It was once in awhile when I visited LA.
I understand. But the question is, there was a certain point where you just kept going.
Yes, because I realized that this helps other people too. I paid attention. Who’s fine now, who got better. You know, there are a lot of stories out there of people who I’ve cooked for. Some got better, some didn’t get better, but cooking for them helped improve their quality of life.
So that’s what kept you going?
“You know what really kept me going? The desire to inspire my kids! After I went through the crazy situation with my ex-wife, I pretty much lost all my material possessions. I was down and out for about a week until I realized “hey, I don’t want my kids to see me this way… beaten and basically thrown out into the street.”
You know what really kept me going? The desire to inspire my kids! After I went through the crazy situation with my ex-wife, I pretty much lost all my material possessions. I was down and out for about a week until I realized “hey, I don’t want my kids to see me this way… beaten and basically thrown out into the street.
So I made up my mind there and then to use the experience as a way to show them that no matter how badly you’ve been beaten, when the chips are down you can come back bigger and better than ever.
You just have to have a dream that’s bigger than yourself, want to use that dream to help others and have faith that the universe has your back, and will be there to help you make it happen any way it can. When I was at my lowest point, God gave me this idea. I listened, and ran with it. And the universe is making sure that I have everything I need to bring that dream to life!
Okay. So, it wasn’t like you were at your day job, and this just suddenly took over your life?
No, I had to close my company and effectively lost my 9-5 day job, and I was trying to figure out what to do next. One night was laying on my couch and asked God… ok, what do I do next? What can I do to get out of debt, make my kids proud and inspire them and help as many people as I can at the same time.
These were my goals and they still are. And almost instantly, this idea came to me. Getting another day job was not even a viable option. It would not have afforded me the opportunity to meet any of my goals.
It was time.
It was time. I can’t even imagine doing anything else at this point. Nothing.
So, do you like where you are at now? You did the trade between LA and New York.
Oh for sure. I appreciate everything those 32 years in NYC gave to me. But I’m in LA now, living a whole new life and loving it! I look back to where I was with fond memories, and appreciate that this experience has brought me back, full circle in the most amazing way!
It’s a whole new life.
Absolutely! A whole new life. You know what’s weird? I hate to say it, I love New York. I really do. But I feel like I did exactly what I was supposed to do there. The second I came here, I felt like that was done, and I was free to move to the next level.
A whole other chapter of your life.
A whole new chapter. I actually was able to see the break in-between chapters.
I know exactly what you are talking about.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you’re just in that place. You’re in the zone. And things are different now but in the greatest way.
You’re a passionate guy, what else are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about whatever I get involved in. Whatever I touch, whatever I want to do, I’m passionate about.
Like my cooking, my baking, what I’m working on. My kids, you know, my kids are my greatest joy. Did I tell you? I have three amazing sons?
Are they here in California or are they in New York?
One is in DC, he’s an attorney. He was top of his class at Columbia Law School. So he just graduated – and got a great job!
So he’s in his mid twenty’s?
He’s twenty-five. And my twenty-one-year-old is up at UB. And he is a lot like me – a little entrepreneur. He is full of energy and gusto and has a lot of great ideas. He actually manages my marketing and social media now and shines bright doing it every day. He really appreciates our mission too, which is being dedicated to improving the lives of other people, not getting them high. All my kids love what I do.
Are you going to involve any of your other boys in your business?
They are 100% part of it already. My oldest son is a brilliant lawyer, and is always giving me whatever guidance he can. My youngest son is Sixteen, so he’s still a bit too young to actually be able to work with me, but he is incredibly bright and a very talented photographer.
So three boys then?
Yea. We are all very close.
So, anyone inspire you to do your best work?
Anyone inspire me?
Yea, did you have any mentors, any people you turn to?
The people I cook for constantly inspire me! I also teach people, including chefs, how to do what I do. And they are constantly inspiring me, and helping me take my skills to the next level.
But your best work, is there anybody that you aspire to be like?
I don’t know. I really don’t. I probably should but, I look around and I see something I like, and I just try to emulate it. I love Julia Child! And I would love to positively impact as many people with my cannabis cuisine as she did and continues to do, even after her passing, with her timeless and wonderful recipes. It’s funny, even before I started this, Julie and Julia, was one of my favorite movies and years ago, a good friend randomly gave me a copy of her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking not too long after seeing that movie.
And now The Daily Beast calls me the Julia Child of weed. When that came out, I was like “wow.” Then a few other press outlets gave me some other monikers as you know, like The Ganja Gourmet and The King of Edibles. I take it as the universe pushing me to “up my game,” and I look around to see what other people are doing.
I love to follow Chef’s like Eric Greenspan and Tal Ronnen and pastry chefs Jason Licker and Eric Kayser. All of their work is magnificent and a real inspiration!
“I’ll tell you why I like her. Julia’s story inspires me. Anybody that has a story where they actually have a dream and made that dream come true, inspires me! How can you not be inspired?
I’ll tell you why I like her. Julia’s story inspires me. Anybody that has a story where they actually have a dream and made that dream come true, inspires me! How can you not be inspired?”
Because her future sort of landed in her lap – to do the cooking?
Exactly, just like this landed in my lap.
There’s a parallel.
Same exact thing. This just landed in my lap.
So, past is prologue.
Yeah, could be. And so that’s where I am. That’s an inspiration for me.
What was it that got you to try cannabis in food for the very first time?
You really want to know? It was in college. I was making this stew for friends and they had just gotten a bunch weed and didn’t know what to do with the seeds and we didn’t want to grow them so we put the seeds in sort of a stew. And it didn’t really do anything.
Because there’s no THC in the seeds.
Right. It didn’t do anything. We wanted to think that it did, but it really didn’t. Then I started dabbling with some old school recipes that came by word of mouth – remember, we didn’t have the internet back then. They were a disaster. Because back then, the common knowledge was, you just throw some weed into your brownies and you can eat them.
But the problem is all that plant matter made it taste terrible. On top of that, it made you sick because your body’s struggling to digest that type of plant matter. So people got sick, anxious and paranoid. They did work, but they did not work well.
Were there too many side effects?
Back then, there were a few reasons people had bad experiences: One is, because they were cooking brownies, for example, at 350 degrees or higher, which its close to the evaporation point for THC. On top of that if you cooked it for too long, or too high of a heat, you convert certain cannabinoids to CBN’s. Too much CBN can make you feel muddled or confused, anxious and paranoid. All the bad feelings.
So if you are creating CBN in your brownies, and you’re denigrating your THC and then you have plant matter in there to boot, you’re gonna get sick. You’re gonna feel muddled and paranoid and you’re not gonna have a good experience. And if you don’t know how much cannabis to put in the recipe, you’re gonna put too much in, and get everyone wacky and end up at the hospital vomiting and thinking you’re dying, which of course you’re not, but it’s a bad experience because all the wrong things are coming together.
What led you to try butter and the oils? Was it just doing some research?
Yeah, doing some research online. Like how do people cook with it nowadays? I had to research it when I was cooking for my friend’s mother. Once I mastered the art of extraction and cooking and baking with it, one of the people I cook for challenged me to “try to take out the cannabis taste!” And I figured out how to do that. That was the big thing.
How long did that take?
Wow. That was determination.
Every time I cooked for someone, I would experiment with it first. It was kind of expensive, but because the people I cooked for supplied everything. I was able to focus on it without worrying about the cost. They were “gung ho” about getting rid of the taste and enjoyed being part of the process. I went online and saw that many people said the best way to take out the taste was to soak the bud in distilled water for seven days and to change the water twice a day and then it should have no taste.
It didn’t really work as well as I thought. The butter and oil still had “the taste.” I would say it was about 65-70% tasteless. In other words, you still had the taste but it wasn’t as pronounced. Pretty similar to the taste that you get at the dispensaries now. Some people like the taste and want the taste because they want to know that there’s cannabis in the edible. But other people don’t like the taste so I set out to remove as much of the taste as possible.
You know, that actually makes sense. That there are some people who may want to taste the cannabis in the recipe? I think that it’s also really great that you can add your butter into a recipe, and it doesn’t change the nature of the recipe.
Right, well sometimes it does actually change a recipe – a little. For example, the way I make my butters, I make ghee [sounds like “key” and is a clarified butter], which means my process takes out the milk solids in the butter. So anything that needs real butter, you need to mix it back in with real butter again. When you do that, it becomes a lighter butter. So the canna-ghee I make can change your recipe’s outcome.
For example, you won’t get that same creamy buttery result in a cookie that you would if you used whole butter. But you can get that back by combining it with regular butter, you just cut the potency when you do that. I teach how to do one or the other or both. The cool thing is, many of the things that I do “now,” are the result of experimentation. Things no one ever thought of…at least that’s what I’d like to believe (laughs).
Like blanching has been done before but not in conjunction with “the soak.” So I created a new method of soaking your weed for one or two days and then blanching it to remove any remaining impurities. Because the first day or two days is really when you’re going to take out most of the chlorophyll and other impurities, and distilled water is the most effective way to remove them, for the most part.
At first, I was skeptical about blanching, but then I learned that the compounds in cannabis that effect you, primarily the THC and CBD are hydrophobic, they don’t leach into the water. Those compounds stick to the leaf. So you can put it in distilled water, and you can blanch it, but what’s going to come out of it is everything “but” the cannabinoids you want like THC and CBD.
Well, that is the benefit of blanching
“I started putting the two together. No one had ever done that before. I figured out that to take out more of the taste, you need to soak it for a night or two in distilled water and then blanch it… which is basically boiling it for five minutes and then putting it in ice water. This way, you get rid of as much of the taste as you can. Then you dry and decarb it. Put it in a lightly covered container to dry thoroughly overnight before you infuse it into the butter or oil.”
Right. I started putting the two together. No one had ever done that before. I figured out that to take out more of the taste, you need to soak it for a night or two in distilled water and then blanch it… which is basically boiling it for five minutes and then putting it in ice water. This way, you get rid of as much of the taste as you can. Then you dry and decarb it. Put it in a lightly covered container to dry thoroughly overnight before you infuse it into the butter or oil.
When you’re all done you’ll have made my Light-Tasting Cannabutter or Cannaoil, which are pretty close to my totally tasteless cannabutters and oils. I have two other processes that I put it through to take the rest of the taste out for my tasteless butters and oils.
Alright everything you just told me is fair to print?
Sure. It’s public knowledge. I teach that.
Oh nice. The eighteen months you spent doing this research, were you still working?
Oh Yeah, I was still working because I still owned my marketing company and was doing sales and marketing for another underwear company.
So, at what point did it seem like this was over? Or, wait, you walked away…
I had to let go of it.
OH. Messy divorce.
The divorce was fourteen Years ago. Messy lawsuit.
I’m not, you know why? If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be here right now. I would not be, sitting with you and having this conversation.
Kind of a rocky transition.
But the world, the universe forces it to happen. Period. That’s the way that it works.
That’s wild. I hear among the many things you said, is that there is part technology or method, and then there’s part of it that’s art – which is culinary. Which one of these two sides speak to you the most? Is it all one thing, inseparable?
Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s one big ball for me.
Artist versus geek?
Yeah, I love science. I’m a hacker. A lot of what of do is hack life experiences. For example, if I wanted to make these muffins [pointing to the muffin on the table], I’d figure out how to do it. I’d hack it. And I add something a little different to it. I’d ask, “How am I going to make it different, better?” I’ll add Cannabis to it, and make cannabis scones.
It is what it is right? We’re all put into this world with our skills.
Similar kind of question, entrepreneur, healer, is it all one thing together?
Isn’t it all one thing?
An entrepreneur is someone who follows their dreams. And the healer part is about helping others so they can follow their dreams.
Well, a dream that produces a stream of income.
It’s the next level though. I guess you can say that everything I’m doing is entrepreneurial. Right?
I suppose the question is, what’s the motivation? Is it entrepreneurial or people? Would you be doing this if no one got better or healed?
There would be no reason to… why would I? We’re all here to better the lives of each other, aren’t we?
Okay and that’s the answer.
Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t be opening a place called high society, or whatever you’d want to call it, and having people go there to get high. That’s just not me.
That’s not what I’m all about. But you’re right. Everything I’m doing is to help other people. At the end of the day, what do we really leave here with?
How about if I told you it is love?
You see, I went through a near death experience six or seven Years ago. Did I tell you about it?
It was nine years ago. Right before my grandmother passed away. It was the craziest thing. I was at the dentist and I always get gas when I’m having a procedure done. I was laying in the dentist chair, getting gas, and all of sudden all I feel that I’m a vibration. I’m just energy.
I feel like I’m laying down, on some sort of table or bed or something, looking at this bright light, right in front of me. And I can see all around me, beings or souls of some sort and instantly felt the most intense warmth and love that I’ve ever felt in my life! And I also knew every answer to every question I had in my head. And as I was going up to wherever I was going, I kept asking questions, and I instantly knew what the answer was.
And then, all of a sudden this shadow just comes into the light, and looks at me and says, “Jeff, what are doing here.” Jeff, go back, Jeff! It starts screaming at me, “Go back.” and I wake up and my dentist…
Did he tell you what happened.
Yeah. He said what happened was…
Exactly. I was getting nitrous, but no oxygen. The oxygen hose was being crimped somehow. So I was basically suffocating.
Oh, my, God.
It’s fine. It was literally one of the most incredible experiences of my life! A few weeks later my grandmother died. She and I were so close, like really close.
When she died, I was actually really happy for her. She had been suffering so much towards the end and I was smiling to the myself at the funeral.
And that’s why, I truly believe that you can only take certain things with you. You take the love that you put out there and what you got back.
What do you think you will be doing in ten years?
Ten Years. Somewhere in the future.
“I’m hoping that everything I’m doing will eventually lead to the legitimization of treating illnesses with high CBD edibles and ultimately to the development of recovery centers all over that will help people who choose to medicate with high CBD cannabis infused edibles.”
I’m hoping that everything I’m doing will eventually lead to the legitimization of treating illnesses with high CBD edibles and ultimately to the development of recovery centers all over that will help people who choose to medicate with high CBD cannabis infused edibles.
You published a video that says if you follow these exact steps, you get cannabis in butter with a predictable result. How do you verify this?
I’m very serious about what I do and send my butters and oils to CW Analytics in Oakland, CA for testing.
Do you send your method to the lab or do you send…
I send them the actual cannabis that I start with in each butter or oil, plus the cannabutter or cannaoil as well as the final edibles made with them to make sure what I’m saying is actually the case.
Yes. Correct. I verify my results.
Do you consider the method to be cooking or is it just a process?
What do you mean?
Well if someone says I can’t cook, would they have reason to shy away from making the cannabutter?
Not really, it’s just a process.
It’s just a process. You follow these steps and you get this results.
Pair that up with what we talked about earlier [we discussed dispensaries before this interview], that when people go to a dispensary and often, budtenders behind the counter couldn’t tell whether a strain was a THC or CBD heavy strain?
Well no, they can tell you if it has THC, but in most cases they can’t tell you if it’s a sativa or an indica. There are also more CBD rich edibles out there now in dispensaries.What they can’t tell you…
If it’s more THC than CBDs?
“…almost everything in the dispensary has THC. There are very few CBD-only strains. Also, when it comes to “flower” or bud, not all dispensaries can tell you the percentage of THC or CBD in what you purchase. And not all dispensaries can tell you what strain is in the edibles. One of the big issues with edibles is you don’t know what’s in it. Sativa? Indica? Is it from specific strain or a medley of shake and trim?”
They can of course, because almost everything in the dispensary has THC. There are very few CBD-only strains. Also, when it comes to “flower” or bud, not all dispensaries can tell you the percentage of THC or CBD in what you purchase. And not all dispensaries can tell you what strain is in the edibles. One of the big issues with edibles is you don’t know what’s in it. Sativa? Indica? Is it from specific strain or a medley of shake and trim?
Right, the packaging says one thing, but…
Now, they are starting to say this edible is made with a sativa and this one is indica, but which strain of sativa? Which indica? What’s the percentage of THC? If I want, for example, this great strain called J1. Okay, I love J1. And I like Jack Herer. There are certain strains that I really, really enjoy, and I enjoy cooking with them. If I go to a dispensary, and I say I want an edible that has J1, they would be like, I don’t know, all I can tell you is it says sativa. But I want to know what strain it is.
Some edibles companies are now telling you which strain it comes from but they are few and far between. I hope more edible companies do that because then you will have more of a sense of what you’re getting.
But so far, the majority of the edibles don’t have that.
So people who want it for medicinal reasons need a particular strain that has CBDs and someone who wants it for recreational…
Right. And so it should be possible for them to walk into “any” dispensary…
What should happen, is that people “should” be able to walk into the dispensary and say, “Hey, can you give me an edible that will help my condition.” And the guy will say, “Yeah, I have something that’s made with Charlotte’s Web which is great for seizures. Or here’s an edible made with Harlequin, which is really great for PMS or fibromyalgia.” It would be really great if they could do that, but they’re not doing that yet.
They haven’t arrived at that point yet.
Not yet. That’s one of the reasons I’m working in manufacturing my Cannabutters and Cannaoils. One of the things I do is make custom butters and custom oils specific for medical needs.
So then a branded line of butters…?
Yes. I don’t know how it’s gonna work. Right now I’m on the process of figuring that all out. I want to create a line of branded butter and oils down the road which will likely be high-end.
But that’s far down the road?
(chuckles) It’s happening sooner than later.
None that I know of.
Well, for example, someone makes this stuff at home and it’s not your consequence, but the situation around them making cannabis infused foods, is there are kids at home.
I mean, I don’t know that anyone that’s done it and had issues so I can’t really say. I mean be careful with stuff like that, like anything else.
How would you encourage people to be careful? In what fashion?
You have to be responsible. You know, just like the disclaimer on the bottom of my website. It’s all about responsibility. If you’re a responsible adult, you don’t put your brownies out there for your kids to get to. It’s pretty simple.
Because they will find them. But say at the end of a party, or an evening with friends, there are leftover goodies, would you encourage people with kids to throw the goodies away?
No, no. Give it to your guests to take home. We do goody bags all the time.
Yeah. And I make a granola. So they can take home granola, they take home cookies, they take home whatever is left over.
Yeah, tell them what it is. And to be careful. Most people, at least the ones I know are very responsible.
Yes, they have to be careful.
It’s their responsibility.
When you think back on people who you met at the dinner parties? Where did the cannabis have the most profound effect?
There were a group of Silicon Valley executives and the chief executive, their new CEO, was a pretty rough individual. It took two and a half hours but it was like watching the shell of an m&m melt away… went from boisterous and gruff to laughing uncontrollably and having a great time! It was like he became a chocolate teddy bear, just laughing and having a great time with everybody and bonding with everybody. It worked.
Oh that’s funny. And did that bonding last afterwards?
Huh, nice. In other words, you changed the group dynamic?
I don’t know that “I” changed the group dynamic, I think the group dynamic got changed, because somebody there, on his staff, had the idea to do a cannabis dinner party and bond.
And well, you provided the means for that…
I was just the chef. I just made sure everyone was happy, eating well and having a good time.
That’s astonishing, but the point is the group dynamic changed at the end.
I see dynamics change at all my dinners, parties and events. For example just did this party in Portland.
I was there for ten days to prepare the first legal cannabis infused meal on the eve of legalization. There were eighteen people all together. The dynamic from one table to the next was completely different.
Because it was different people.
Right, but you could tell everyone was just having a good time. But the ones on the inner table were a lot more philosophical. And ones on the outer table were just laughing. They all had the same exact food.
This is before they were eating or this…
No this after, around dessert time. The people outside are having a grand old time listening to the storyteller of the group. But they’re all very talkative and engaged. Which is exactly what the host wanted, everyone to be talking and having a good time and interfacing – and everybody was. But the inner table was a lot more talkative in a philosophical way.
Yeah and everyone was engaged but in a deep philosophical discussion. But outside, the other group was having an amazing time laughing and sharing stories. It was a very, very different dynamic.
“Both groups were talkative – real talkative – but the dynamics of each table were basically steered by whoever was the most boisterous person at the table. If one was more philosophical, then the entire discussion was a philosophical creative conversation. At the other table, the “table leader” one was more fun and big on having a good time, and everyone at the table went that way.”
Both groups were talkative – real talkative – but the dynamics of each table were basically steered by whoever was the most boisterous person at the table. If one was more philosophical, then the entire discussion was a philosophical creative conversation. At the other table, the “table leader” one was more fun and big on having a good time, and everyone at the table went that way.
Oh, that’s a very interesting reveal. Like you can’t say that everyone was going to respond to the edibles in the same way.
Just because there’s a chemical in your body doesn’t mean you’re going to react the same way that I react to the same chemical in my body. It’s all about what stimulates me and what I would I react to.
And how you react to cannabis is sorta an outpouring of your natural state.
Yeah. All the outside stimuli and distractions play a part as well.
Are you interested in going to any culinary schools?
I take culinary classes. I wish I had time to do a full-time thing, but I take culinary classes and stuff like that. I also teach a chefs how to do what I do and they teach me a lot along the way.
What are you emphasizing in your classes? What courses are you taking?
What do you mean? Oh, serious skills – like knife skills, which is a really good one I took. Bread baking, the things that I really want to know about. Pastries and stuff like that.
Core skills, Yeah, I mean that’s pretty much all anyone teaches anyway.
When you travel to put on a meal for different people in different parts of the country, are you noticing a different relationship they have with their food?
Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. When I was up in Portland, a few people suggested that I move to Portland because I could do a lot of great stuff there. It’s a great culinary city with a local, organic, farm-to-table, artisan feel. Everything I’m about. And I really love it!!! But I love LA and what I’m doing here. This is where I need to be right now.
When people sit down to one of your meals, do you sense that there’s a buzz of anticipation for what’s about to happen?
For sure! And a bit of nervousness and trepidation I think too.
At this one party where we served pre-dinner bhangs [cannabis infused cocktails pronounced “bong”], there was one woman who just kept holding her glass [laughing]. Everyone else was drinking theirs. I said, “Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be scared of.” She said, “I know, I just had a bad experience once…and I’m just… you know…” I said, “Trust me, it’s very mild.” Everything that I do is very mild and builds up over time, so just enjoy it.
This is interesting, so you start them off with a serving, and then there’s more servings…
Throughout the meal…
Basically, the doses pile on top of one another during the meal.
So everything isn’t in one serving. They are not going to be suddenly hit with a buzz…
No, no, no. It’s not like eating a piece of chocolate that’s 20mg and then feeling it when you have the rest of your meal. At my dinners, in an entire meal, maybe three out of the five items have cannabis in them.
This is a very important point because I’ve heard about people who pile it all into something and serve it at the beginning of the evening.
You can if you want but then you’re basically just getting everyone high then serving them dinner as opposed to a culinary cannabis experience.
I see, a gradual dosing while they enjoy the food. Then by the end of the meal they actually feel it.
This is a point I try to make to everyone I cook for.
Any defining moments you can identify, when catering your dinners?
I once redeemed an entire dinner party.
This was in San Francisco?
Well, it was in Berkeley. They had tried to do it on their own and had a bad experience. I was told I was being brought in to redeem them (chuckles).
Did everybody show up again for another go at it?
Everybody showed up again. They wrote about it in the Forward [ http://forward.com/food/307808/pot-shabbat/] I think the thing that stands out is that people always talk about how much I dose. How I am able to make sure that everyone gets the right amount of THC and has a really good time and is feeling really good at the end instead of like totally stoned.
I pre-measure all my stuff. I know exactly how much to put in each meal.
The cannabutter is measured for the beginning, middle and the end of the meal?
Yeah, so for example, I used a canna-coconut oil for that bong that I told you about a bit ago. And then in the next dish, we served a few Mezes on cannabis infused pita. We didn’t just hand them the pita, there was a choice of premeasured Mezes one canna-Tahini, one CannaGanoush, and one CannaHarissa with yogurt. Each had a specific amount of THC. We told everyone how much was in each and they chose how much they wanted to eat.
You choose to eat as much as you want. People are going to make their own choices. I also serve dishes that are not medicated. So we always have non-medicated alternatives. Do you want the canna-tahini or do you want the regular tahini. You want the canna-Ganoush or the regular Baba Ganoush.
Different colored serving plates?
Yes. I use colors to differentiate. The white plates I serve from typically have cannabis infused items in or on them. If there’s a different color on the table then it’s a regular, non-cannabis food. People provide their own menus, dishes and stuff.
Did you ever have any reason to turn down a catering offer?
“Yes, a lot. A lot of people ask me to cater parties, but they’re not legal. Like I can’t cater a party in New York, I get asked all the time to do parties in New York, I can’t do it. I also focus more on Medicinal cooking and a CBD Medical Marijuana patient will always get priority over a recreational dinner or party.”
Yes, a lot. A lot of people ask me to cater parties, but they’re not legal. Like I can’t cater a party in New York, I get asked all the time to do parties in New York, I can’t do it. I also focus more on Medicinal cooking and a CBD Medical Marijuana patient will always get priority over a recreational dinner or party.
You are a public figure now…
I guess. And because of that I need to make sure I keep everything above-board and by the book. If I cook in California, everyone has to have a medical card, it’s a medical state. But in places like Colorado or Oregon, where recreational use is legal, it’s not an issue, but there are still laws we have to follow. Every state is different. But if it’s a medical state, everyone has to have a valid card, and all hosts supply their own cannabis. I don’t supply anything. I just bring my knives and my sous chef.
Right, that I understood. Everyone needs a card is new info.
And they have to supply their own cannabis as well. I don’t supply.
So are you having to make different choices in different states according to what the law is.
Every state is different. For example, I can’t do more than eight people in Oakland or San Francisco at a private party. And they all have to sign that they’ve joined a collective. t’s a lot easier for me in the recreational states, obviously.
You mentioned that you’re writing a book. Anything you can talk about?
Of course! It’s called The Ganja Gourmet: The Joy of Cooking with Cannabis and it’s being published by Harper Wave on June 28th. And it will be, more than recipes and photography; it will be very, very informational. There’s never been a cookbook like this out there yet.
Not only will it be chock full of over 100 great recipes, but each recipe will show about how many milligrams of THC will be in that recipe, per serving, depending on the percentage of THC in the bud you use to infuse your butter or oil. There will also be a lot of information about CBD’s, which strains are best for certain conditions and how to use them.
Co-author? Or is it all you?
It’s all me! At times I wish I had a co-author [laughs]. Actually, at times, when I was writing it I wished I had someone to actually write it, and I could just dictate.
That would be sweet. Any last thoughts?
Not that I can think of at this point.
Jeff, you have been amazing.