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No Cups, Just Plates: We Went to a Cannabis Chef Showdown



Not all cannabis events these days involve smoking or dabbing! The recent Culinary and Cannabis gathering in Huntington Beach, CA treated attendees to a sophisticated afternoon of solid marijuana science and education, accompanied by some of the most creative cannabis cuisine found anywhere. Not only were there no dab rigs and blunts, there was nary a cookie or brownie to be found. The focus was on cooking, and the cutting edge chefs behind today’s haute cannabis cuisine.

Family health issues inspired event producer Tamara Anderson, a registered nurse, to create a venue where those curious about cannabis could be educated on the healing properties of the herb while experiencing the many facets of cannabis cuisine.  Likewise, it was important to her to keep the foods infused with only CBD.  “I want people to be able to focus on the speakers,” Anderson explains, “and to really learn about what edibles can do for their health.”

While there were vendors selling some innovative products, the bulk of the focus was on cooking and the chefs behind today’s trend toward gourmet cannabis fine dining.  That’s right, cannabis cuisine in Southern California has reached a point where qualified patients can now have gourmet medicated meals delivered to their doors or a marijuana infused dinner party catered at their venue of choice.

Not only could the public taste the food, they could also interact with the culinary masters who created it.  Stand-out dishes included:

Chef Esteban's Shrimp & Grits dish.

Chef Esteban’s Shrimp & Grits dish.

Chef Esteban of Crown Catering’s Shrimp and Grits, an indulgent Southern classic that instantly turned a number of Southern Californian grits virgins into grits fanatics.  It’s hard to lose with any dish that combines sweet and spicy grilled shrimp with smoky crisp bacon atop a creamy, cheesy bed of soft comforting grits.

Inventive hand-held pies from Chef Gabe Griggs

Chef Gabe Griggs, of Tonight Studios and Pocket Change, created a Blueberry Buffalo Coconut Oil Infused Pocket Pie that tantalized the taste buds with an unusual combination of sweet fruit, an elaborate spice blend, and savory ground buffalo.  Throughout the day I overheard people telling their friends, “You have to try the Blueberry Buffalo Pie, it is AMAZING!”


Judging cannabis-infused dishes is hard work, but somebody's got to do it!

Judging cannabis-infused dishes is hard work, but somebody’s got to do it!

Four chefs turned up the heat even more by competing in a cannabis infused version of Top Chef, and the three judges, myself along with Chef Chris Yang, and Keiko Beatty of the US Weed Channel, had our work cut out for us choosing a winner.


This top cannabis chef Andrea Drummer reigns supreme with a Southern-inspired dish.

This top cannabis chef Andrea Drummer reigns supreme with a Southern-inspired dish.

After much discussion, it ultimately came down to the artistic plating of Chef Andrea Drummer’s Corn Grits with Shellfish, Fried Pork Belly and Fresh Okra, which managed to just nudge out the competition.  Drummer, who used cannabis infused oil to medicate the dish, wanted to pay homage to her Southern roots while challenging herself to transform a simple food, like shrimp and grits, into a culinary work of art.  She presented a delicate balance of rich flavors and textures.  Most amazing of all?  Chef Andrea’s okra lacked the vegetable’s typical slime!


Using Stoney Sauces makes it easy to infuse any meal.

Using Stoney Sauces makes it easy to infuse any meal.

The event’s proximity to the beach inspired Chef Nugs to tackle seafood.  His Mussels in Garlic, Tomato and Chorizo Broth accomplished the near impossible of incorporating the spicy Spanish sausage into a dish without it overpowering the flavor or making it greasy.  Nugs used his own brand of infused olive oil and seasoning blends to medicate his entry.


Refreshing watermelon salad infused with cannabis oil.

Refreshing watermelon salad infused with cannabis oil.

Lastly, Chef Gabe Griggs continued his flavor explorations of  fruit and meat combinations by serving Jamaican Spiced Roast Pork with Plantains, and Watermelon and Mint Salad. Infused olive oil medicated the dish, although coconut oil is this chef’s preferred method for medicating his pocket pies.

Tamara said the purpose of her event was to teach attendees how to incorporate cannabis into their diets beyond the typical sugar-laden commercially available fare.  Everyone at Culinary and Cannabis left full, relaxed, and educated.  I’d say she accomplished her goals, and she did it with style!