Imagine watching a live round of a “Top Chef” challenge. Now add a hip-hop and reggae soundtrack. Swap the supermodel host for a shaggy-haired, tattooed man who doesn’t stop smiling. And add weed. Lots of weed.
Welcome to the Top Chef Cannabis Competition, taking place throughout the weekend as part of the High Times SoCal Cannabis Cup at National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino.
More than 400 aspiring chefs applied to be part of the contest. Eight chefs were chosen to cook against each other on stage in rounds Friday and Saturday, with the final two set to square off Sunday afternoon.
“You have better odds of getting into Harvard, I think,” joked Garyn Angel with Magical Butter, a company that makes a machine to cook up cannabis-infused butter and is sponsoring this weekend’s cooking competition.
Brandon Allen had never done a cannabis cooking competition before he stepped into the “Edibles Village” tent on Saturday.
The San Diego resident is classically trained as a chef. He only started cooking with weed in November, after he turned to medical marijuana to ease his own severe lower back pain. He applied for the Cannabis Cup contest and soon found himself on stage in front of several dozen people, cooking for a potential prize of $1,000 and title of Top Cannabis Chef.
The chefs each get a pantry of ingredients, including cannabis infused butter and oil. Someone in the crowd then draws a slip of paper out of a bucket to tell them which of 13 chosen styles of food they’ll be cooking. The chefs then have 30 minutes to make four dishes: three for the judges and one for photos. And they’re judged based on their dish’s appearance, taste and originality.
After a close Jamaican-themed cook-off against “Chef Phyllis,” Allen advanced to the next round with a dish of cannabis-infused sweet potato hash and seared rib-eye steak garnished with a fried marijuana leaf.
He was still flooded with adrenaline as the stepped off the stage, with a couple hours to hydrate and clean up his knives before he was set to square off against another semifinalist.
“What these chefs are doing is nothing short of amazing,” Angel said.
He’s been traveling the world taking Magical Butter on the road since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.
The cooking competition has evolved “tremendously” over the past five years, he said.
“It’s no more cookies and brownies,” he said. “We’re getting to a point in life when you can infuse anything you eat.”
This weekend was the first time the crew debuted cameras over the chefs’ stations, so viewers could watch what they were doing on TVs along the stage.
Allen hopes he can teach people this weekend and in the future how to cook with clean ingredients that can help them feel better.
“I feel like I have a brand new purpose,” he said. “I really think I can help a lot of people.”
Cannabis Cup-goers can catch the finals of the cooking competition Sunday afternoon.
Here’s coverage from the first day of the festival, which runs through Sunday night.
- Weed-infused massages in high demand at High Times Cannabis Cup
- High Times Cannabis Cup lets visitors press their own rosin
- Check out photos from day one of High Times Cannabis Cup
Check back at TheCannifornian.com for more coverage throughout the weekend.
If you go
• Who: Anyone 18 and older, though you’ll need to have (or get at the event) a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana to enter the main festival grounds
• What: High Times SoCal Cannabis Cup, with a competition for the best cannabis products, concerts, career fair, seminars, cooking competition, food trucks and more.
• When: 1 p.m. to late April 23
• Where: National Orange Show Events Center at 689 S E St., San Bernardino
• How much: One-day passes are $55 or $25 after 5 p.m. with the codeword “SUNSET” online
• More information and tickets: At the gate or at cannabiscup.com/socal#tickets-