“Man, kitchen equipment’s awesome,” a weed expert says after taking a hit through Top Chef alum Marcel Vigneron’s smoke gun.
“Bong Appétit” is the cannabis docu-series the world has been holding their hit for.
Free from the trappings of day-to-day dispensary life — and the drama manufactured therein for ratings — the cast moves throughout Los Angeles creating unique culinary experiences focused around cutting-edge cannabis extractions. Plus pounds and pounds of ganja.
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Debuting Wednesday on Viceland (10:30 p.m. EST), the show follows host and excitable stoner bro Abdullah Saeed as he works with a new set of professionals each episode to throw a weed-infused bash. In reality, the nuances of menu planning falls on Saeed’s two experts: Marigold Sweets founder Vanessa Lavorato for culinary guidance, and Ry Prichard as the cannabis infusion guru. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Prichard for years.)
Instead of focusing on traditional stoner fare like Cheetos and Goldfish, the show finds ways to pair the flavors and high of cannabis with upscale cooking in ways that blow the chefs’ minds as frequently as the diners. “For me it’s so cool because, like, it’s like you guys gave me a whole new pantry,” a possibly stoned Vigneron says at the end of the pilot episode.
But the intersection of both food porn and weed porn is what really makes the show tick, however.
Meeting up with Vigneron at his trendy, new American restaurant Wolf, Saeed et al listen as the proprietor throws out various products — fresh tuna, beef cheeks — and suggest ways to incorporate their five-figure cannabis pantry, with everything from raw flower to extracted terpenes to various forms of hash.
Not everything will get you high, as cannabidiol (CBD) is deftly incorporated into the meal as a non-psychoactive that makes sense when Prichard tells us “… you can actually kind of calm yourself down with CBD.” Terpenes exist as aromatics, adding a Blue Dream extraction to the ponzu for herbaceousness and sweetness. These intelligent pairings and the mouth-watering descriptions from Lavorato and Prichard pull you through the screen.
Where the pilot lags is Saeed’s trip to Wind Gap Wines, which — you guessed it — produces cannabis-infused vino. Owner Pax Mahle, donning a heather grey Phish shirt, clinically breaks down the process of fermenting grapes and weed in the same way your buddy shows you his basement homebrew setup. Sure, any good party needs wine, but you find yourself wondering what Vigneron is cooking up in the McMansion and not what our host thinks of the wine (“Oh wow, that’s really good, man”).
Back at the test kitchen, the execution of various dishes gives the former host of the eponymous Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen a chance to shine as his years in front of the camera are evident. Despite his many weed puns, Vigneron doles out great tips: Use more protein than fat in ice cream for a better mouthfeel; Use high-activity muscles to get more flavorful dishes.
His sativa-supplying sous chefs work thoughtfully to dial in the cannabis portion of the recipes with Saeed cheerleading from the culinary sidelines. All of this is done without the false dramatization that can doom food shows — will the ice cream set in time? — and plays straightforward with the viewer, a welcome change.
Fast-forward to the dinner, replete with industry representatives like hash-maker Jonny Proper and the quiet musician Mandeep “Seti-X” Sethi, and it becomes clear this is a once-in-a-lifetime meal. The tuna is “hotboxed.” The beef cheeks are cooked with OG Kush. The ice cream has liquid nitrogen pearls of weed juice.
This is the absolute edge of cannabis-infused cooking.
The show’s most divisive figure should be Saeed, who seems like the kind of guy you’d want to hit an actual bong and play Xbox with — not experience high-end fare through the eyes of. This is most evident when Vigneron is quietly prideful of using beef cheek, a throwaway product for some chefs, and Saeed responds with, “No, I’m not even slightly put off by the idea of eating, like, an animal’s face beyond its like, leg or its ass.” With only two episodes available for preview, the hope is he grows on you as his cannabis-induced wonder can be as infectious as it is genuine, even with the random f-bomb tossed in.
“I don’t know how the fuck we’re going to top this, because we have a lot more dinners to do,” Saeed says to laughs. It’s a great problem to have in a genre where the average show is a retread of “The French Chef,” only on weed. For now, appreciate the ambitiousness of “Bong Appétit” and the cast of characters that far outpace their tired cooking show counterparts.
They’re not simply adding weed butter to recipes; they’re reinventing what it means to cook with cannabis.