Culinary web series High Cuisine takes "plant-based" cooking and runs with it — hard. It's a competition, but not like anything you've ever seen before: the show invites two Los Angeles-based chefs to get extremely stoned and then tackle a food-crafting challenge. But it's important to note that none of the grub made on High Cuisine contains cannabis — it's just what's running through the chef's bloodstreams.
POPSUGAR reached out to the show's executive producer, vegan advocate Asher Brown, and we chatted over email about HC's herbal component, veggie cupcakes, and the challenge of cooking a meal in just one color.
POPSUGAR: Tell me a little about the inspiration behind this new show. Why was the timing right to roll it out now?
Asher Brown: With High Cuisine, we wanted to show amazing chefs creating incredible, unique, and appetizing dishes. This isn't Cheech and Chong or Dude, Where's My Car? There is a great depth of creativity and talent here. We've got top chefs creating crazy dishes that no one has ever seen before. Plant-based cuisine is huge right now, and [adult-use] cannabis just got legalized in California, so the time is right for a show that combines the two.
PS: How did you decide to add "planted-based only" parameters? What about vegan food and cannabis pair together so well?
AB: There's a lot of overlap between the cannabis and plant-based movements. To me, the intersection is about being conscious about what you put into your body, and how that affects you and the world at large. And just because people have always done things a certain way, that doesn't mean we should blindly follow along.
PS: What makes High Cuisine different from other cannabis-inclined culinary shows (like Bong Appétit)?
AB: We wanted to do a fresh take on the traditional cooking show. High Cuisine has all of the trappings of a competition show you might find on network TV, but with the added fun that stoned chefs bring to the kitchen. Plus, we're aiming our show at a wide audience. You don't have to smoke to appreciate High Cuisine. The weed is in the chefs, but not in the food, so we'd love everyone watching at home to wonder what a fruit roll-up enchilada tastes like and be able to follow along when a chef tries to make beet cupcakes — and then get inspired to cook some awesome weird food themselves.
PS: Tell me about some of the unique participant challenges of this show. What has surprised you most thus far with filming?
AB: High Cuisine truly is the first show of its kind, so getting our competing chefs to sign up to get high in front of a camera and then compete was always going to be our biggest challenge. In one episode, we had a chef who had never smoked before — Chef Rouha Sadighi — and we were able to capture her first-ever puff on the show.
In our veggie cupcakes episode, Chef Cinthya Gomez didn't have much experience smoking either, and she actually made sure to practice before coming on the show. These are all very successful chefs, and while we had to work hard to build trust, I was blown away by how willing they were to jump in on this adventure.
PS: What do most people have trouble understanding about cooking with cannabis? Any pointers for first-timers?
AB: While High Cuisine does not involve putting cannabis in the dishes, it does paint the picture that cooking while stoned is all about creativity. It's about trying new things in the kitchen that might turn out awesome or might be horrible failures — and having a great time no matter the outcome. Cooking shouldn't be about following a recipe or ending up with an Insta-perfect dish. It's about loving food, being creative, and really paying attention to what you're eating.
PS: What has turned out to be your favorite episode and why?
AB: Episode 4, entitled "Color Wars," is my favorite. We asked our chefs to create a Michelin-caliber gourmet meal, but they could only use one color of food in their dishes. Chef Rouha had never smoked before and absolutely crushed it with her red food dish. Chef Key Locke had a bit more experience smoking, and it was so much fun watching her continually changing what she was making with her green food dish. This episode is all about the challenges of cooking while high, plus the rewards of not being tethered down by a recipe. "Color Wars" is filled with outrageously hilarious moments, and both chefs delivered incredible dishes at the end.
PS: Tell me about some of the most rewarding aspects of creating such a show.
AB: This show was really personal for me. I was able to deliver a show that was all about creativity and takes a major step toward making plant-based cuisine accessible to a wider audience, all while normalizing cannabis culture. We had so much fun on set, and I really think it shines through. Honestly, I still can't believe Go90 let us make a show where the chefs get high and compete to make wild plant-based dishes. Big appreciation to the Go90 team for their support, and to the production company Mitu for bringing me in. And I am so grateful for how well this show has been received. So many incredible artists worked on this show, and I really think we have something special.
PS: What's coming up on High Cuisine's horizon?
AB: We've got a few more episodes to air in season one, including the championship in early February. Winning dish gets on the menu at [LA-based Gracias Madre's] Jason Eisner's new bar Whiskey Baby.
PS: Anything else you'd like to add?
AB: Food is amazing. If you want to see more shows like High Cuisine, then we need everyone to come out and show their support. We don't need any more cooking shows with food that's too serious, or food that's sh*tty for you, or food that sucks for the planet. High Cuisine is a fun show for a broad audience — not just vegans and stoners. If you like getting creative with your food and want to have a few laughs along the way, our show is free to watch at Go90.com.