Chef Hosea Rosenberg stands behind the counter at his restaurant Blackbelly Market in Boulder. (Adam Larkey Photography/provided by Blackbelly Market)

Food & Weed: Snacking and relaxing with chef Hosea Rosenberg

"Top Chef" winner talks about crafting food-weed pairings and the allure of junk food

Don’t leave a bag of chips around chef Hosea Rosenberg. It’s his guilty pleasure and if he has been smoking weed he will eat them all, especially Chili Cheese Fritos. But if those aren’t available, still beware. It doesn’t matter what type of salty, fatty and crunchy food is there. When the munchies hit him hard, he will devour them.

“I get the munchies bad and I get hungry no matter what I smoke,” said the winner of “Top Chef” season five. “If I am planning on smoking and eating, I don’t eat before because I know I will eat more than I thought.”

Luckily when it comes to keeping his kitchen stocked, the chef and owner of Boulder’s Blackbelly Market never mixes business with pleasure. When he is working at the restaurant you can bet he’s sober. But outside of work hours, he enjoys going out to eat and sampling new foods while high, and sometimes that combination inspires him in the kitchen.

“Depending on what I smoke I can get analytical about food, though I have so many other cooking inspirations such as going out to eat and talking to chefs and farmers,” he said. “But weed is definitely one of them.”

Smoking marijuana also helps him decide how to best pair food with weed, something he does with Kendal Norris and her group, Mason Jar Events. This boutique company hosts private marijuana-focused dinner parties on farm sites around Colorado, and Rosenberg has been key in planning the meal portion of the occasions.

“We aren’t cooking with it, but pairing food with weed like you would at a wine dinner,” he said. “I meet the weed growers and the producers, and then taste it, smell it and decide what food would work.”

During a recent dinner, this included a salad of organic Salanova lettuce, roasted beets, shaved fennel, radish, Haystack chèvre and pistachios in a citrus-mint vinaigrette, which were matched with OG Kush from retailer Sweet Leaf. Dessert that evening came in the form of cherry cobbler with spiced amaretto ice cream and smoked candied almonds, a lovely sweet that Rosenberg enhanced with a side of Blue Kudu’s Black Forest Bar, a dark chocolate edible with cherry notes.

Even before he got involved with Mason Jar Events, Rosenberg knew something about outdoor affairs, and at Blackbelly Market he already worked with seasonal and organic goods. Taking food to the next — and very Colorado-appropriate — level was something new, as the chef hadn’t really thought about how to pair edibles and buds with his creations. He said that as with wine pairing, much of what you perceive on the palate comes from your imagination. And though he puts a lot of work into thinking about the flavor of the cannabis he is consuming and how it goes with the meal, he said at the end of the day, weed just goes with food on a fundamental level.

Beyond acquiring tasty ideas and fueling snack fests, cannabis helps the busy chef relax at the end of the day. Many shifts run over 12 hours, and after running around on his feet and organizing a whole kitchen, Rosenberg loves to just lounge at home with a bowl and decompress. On many occasions this involves a snack and maybe a glass of wine as well.

“(Marijuana) helps me think of positive ways to work better and to make the kitchen a well-oiled machine,” he said.

The day after smoking he looks at his plans again just to make sure he wasn’t too stoned and the idea is actually good. And usually it is, he said.