For Abdullah Saeed’s birthday, Ry and Vanessa throw a Bedouin themed party and help chef Deb Mikhail stuff entire flame-roasted chickens with weed. Ras G performs. (Photo: Courtesy of Viceland)

How co-hosting Viceland’s ‘Bong Appetit’ altered (and expanded) this weed nerd’s mind

When I got the call to be a co-host/cannabis expert on the new Viceland show “Bong Appetit,” I assumed I would be whisked off to Los Angeles to basically just smoke a lot of weed on camera and spew my usual technical cannabis jargon for a few hours a day, spending my leisure-filled nights reclined near a pool in unseasonal clothing.

While parts of that were true — I certainly spewed a lot of cannabis jargon, and I was geographically located in L.A. — the experience as a whole gave me a lot of respect for anyone who has ever taken part in a television show or movie. After my first 14-hour day on set, not smoking nearly enough weed to quiet my screaming sciatica nerve or anxious mind, I realized that this glamorous weed job, like most other “glamorous” weed jobs, was a lot harder and more complicated than it seemed on its face.

After the fifth straight 14-hour day and two more frenzied, marathon planning days in-between, I began to look at the camera/sound crew as some kind of modern-day superheroes for carrying all that equipment and not turning into a weeping puddle of misery by the end of every shift.

Before this turns into a pampered-weed-guy-complains-about-actually-working article, I have to take a step back and explain how this TV show insanity even came about in the first place.

This whole experience resulted from a chance phone call from a personal friend who had a role on this new show as a consulting producer, which essentially meant that he was given the task of figuring out how to do all the cool weed stuff that needed to happen. This friend, who we will simply call “Terpinsky” for simplicity’s sake, approached me about participating in an episode of the show with my food/drink/cannabis pairing project, TerpQuest.

I made a pitch to Vice producers to have a TerpQuest episode as a part of the show’s season, waited a couple of impatient weeks and then heard that production had gotten delayed indefinitely.

“Shit, there goes my chance,” I immediately thought, a knee-jerk reaction to the intellectual tire fire of incredibly exciting dashed opportunities I’ve had in the cannabis industry over the last seven years. Then about a week later, I got a call from Terpinsky saying that they were resuming production and that they were looking for a cannabis/food expert to serve as a co-host.

Bong Appetit
A special birthday joint for Abdullah Saeed’s birthday. (Courtesy of Viceland)

For those who don’t know me, I spend probably 30 hours a week (on the conservative side) obsessing about the intersection of cannabis, food and drink with chefs, cannabis people, sommeliers, brewers and anyone else who will listen to my rantings. So the opportunity to work with world-class chefs who mostly don’t know how to cook with cannabis, showing them how to medicate food and how to use cannabis as a true culinary ingredient was literally my dream job.

The TV part was beside the point to me. All I could think about was the infinite collection of ways we could open people’s minds with cannabis and flavor.

Anyway, I made a second pitch, which included a lot of those experimental ideas, and managed to get the gig. I found out I got the job on a Tuesday, and I had to be on a plane to L.A. that Saturday — leaving behind my wife and young daughter as well as two high-volume concentrate labs that depend on me on a daily basis.

“Bong Appetit” is a 10-episode cooking show premiering Dec. 14 on Viceland, which is Vice’s cable channel. The concept of the show involves host Abdullah Saeed throwing 10 different themed dinner parties that feature cannabis as an ingredient. Since most of the chefs have never cooked with cannabis in any real way, my primary job was to help them figure out how to do that, usually with about 36 hours of prep time.

#bongappetit dec 14

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Fast-forward to day one of the shoot: Terpinsky and I have spent the last 3 days putting together an insane world-class pantry of cannabis goods, which includes 30-plus strains, basically every form of concentrate in existence and a rainbow of packaged edible products.

We, with the help of an appropriately shocked art director, set all this up inside the actual pantry of a rented McMansion in West Hollywood, which served as the set. But it was also where myself, Saeed, Terpinsky and the primary producer would be staying for the five weeks of filming. The house itself was suitably insane, but it was made more insane by the giant display jars full of California’s finest OG Kush that were literally everywhere, a constant reminder that I was living in some kind of dreamland.

The first shoot day was incredibly intimidating for me. Despite my experience being followed for a year as part of the documentary “Rolling Papers,” the buzz of production staff chatting about blocking and setup of shots, the PAs scrambling to grab supplies, the team of cameras, photographers and sound guys — this was clearly a different type of production than I had been a part of previously.

#bongappetit begins dec 14

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When I found out that the producer of this show also produced “The Daily Show” from 1999 to 2007, I quickly went into what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here-precisely? existential shock mode. Luckily I was able to mostly gather my head and spent the first day explaining the pantry to Abdullah, meeting our first chef, and (thankfully, because I stress eat) eating some of the best tacos I’ve had at Guerrilla Tacos, a much-lauded L.A. truck helmed by chef Wes Avila.

In the five weeks since that first day shooting at a taco truck, I’ve watched a man make a menorah and a Christmas centerpiece entirely from cannabis (including a joint-log cabin, CBD crystal “snow” and a little shatter path down the middle), took cannabis cold-smoked tuna crudo and cannabis-leaf juice Dippin’ Dots from conception to execution with Top Chef’s Marcel Vigneron, stuffed four whole chickens with an ounce of Kosher Kush apiece then cooked them over an open pit fire on the back patio of a mansion, gorged myself on Korean fried chicken coated in a chile/kief/CBD crystalline spice rub, smoked out of multiple $100,000-plus glass pipes and spent my final night surrounded by the desolate beauty of Joshua Tree National Park with all the new friends I made while shooting this show.

To even try to put the experience of making “Bong Appetit” into words seems so futile; it truly surpassed my expectations in every way, changing the way I think about cannabis, food and drink entirely.

It not only gave me a higher regard for the people who work long hours making TV and movies, but it also gave me a new respect for cannabis as a culinary ingredient. The excitement of the chefs as they saw the pantry for the first time, the improvisational way that we devised the infusions and flavor accents, and the amazement on the faces of the dinner guests as they experienced our creations are things I’ll never forget.

We did things with cannabis and food that have likely never been done before in the world, certainly not on national TV. It was truly an honor to make, and I hope everyone enjoys watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Bong appetit!