Dude… You Know What Would Be Good Right Now?!
I’ve gotten more emails about a recent New York Times article on marijuana use in restaurant kitchens than any in the history of the site. I suppose it’s time for everyone else to weigh in.
When I was a lad, the drug of choice in restaurants was cocaine. Whether you indulged or not it was prevalent in the industry as a way to get through the exhaustion of long shifts in a hot kitchen. These days the preferred drug seems to be Marijuana. Personally, I can’t imagine taking a break from work for a quick smoke. They find me sitting in a corner of the walk-in with a bull of frosting clutched between desperate hands.
Some choice quotes from the NY Times article:
…a handful of chefs are unabashedly open about marijuana’s role in their creative and recreational lives and its effect on their restaurants.
The chefs and restaurateurs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo said most of their projects — going to Sicily to import olive oil to sell at their two Frankies Spuntino restaurants; the concept for their Brooklyn restaurant Prime Meats; even a new restaurant planned for Portland, Ore. — were conceived with the creative help of marijuana.
Stoners coming to Portland? (Gasp!)
Getting in touch with the haute stoner food aesthetic, though, does not necessarily mean looking at life through a haze of smoke.
The cereal milk soft-serve ice cream at Momofuku Milk Bar in Manhattan is a perfect example. A dessert based on the slightly sweet flavor of milk at the bottom of a cereal bowl particularly appeals to someone who knows both high-quality food and the cannabis-induced pleasure of a munchie session built from a late-night run to the 7-Eleven.
Christina Tosi, the pastry chef of David Chang’s empire, said she was stone-cold sober when she invented it. She was in the basement of Mr. Chang’s Ssam Bar late at night, trying to save a failed experiment in fried apple pies.
Even for people who don’t use illegal drugs, the deep flavors and sensory appeal of dishes like the breakfast burrito pizza at Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn, have an undeniable appeal. They plug directly into the reptilian portion of our brains, the side that wants what it wants and wants it now — and also a big bowl of it, please.
“I always call it the Big Mac effect,” said the chef Vinny Dotolo, who owns Animal in Los Angeles with Jon Shook. Mr. Shook’s version of the French-Canadian dish poutine, built from Cheddar cheese and French fries covered in oxtail gravy, might be considered for the haute stoner food hall of fame.
The McDonald’s sandwich is familiar and offers a range of tastes, Mr. Dotolo said. There are savory elements from the cheese and beef, sweetness from the sauce, tartness from the pickle and crunch from the lettuce, all surrounded by soft white bread.
“It’s that thing where you’re trying to hit all the senses,” he said.
More states are legalizing marijuana or offering medical marijuana plans, so there is more and better pot in circulation, Mr. Falcinelli and other chefs said. At the same time, diners are wild about high-end snacking: witness the rise of food carts and the elevation of humble dishes like pizza, hamburgers and pork buns.
The chefs of the haute stoner cuisine movement are just as obsessive about their marijuana as they are about olive oil, wine or coffee.
“It’s like getting the best cheese,” Mr. Falcinelli said. “I have like four or five different types of marijuana in my refrigerator right now.”
The sensibility extends to the latest wave of coffee culture. Coffee geeks are as infatuated with their Pacas varietal beans from Central America as pot users are with their sticky sinsemilla from Humboldt County in California.
Duane Sorenson, the founder of the coffee roaster Stumptown, said that fat buds of marijuana often end up in the tip jar at his shops.
“It goes hand in hand with a cup of coffee,” he said. “It’s called wake and bake. Grab a cup of Joe and get on with it.”
Those are just some quick quotes from a long article. What do you think? Looking for a job at Stumptown? Scoring from food carts? I always thought the late night cart pod on SW 12th and Hawthorne was the ultimate stoner party.
Aha! This explains why service times have lengthened! And how do you place a value the buds in the tip jar for IRS purposes? Will your favorite restaurant now be a target for drug raids? Is this what the inspector reports mean by roaches on the floor and counter?
Food Dude says
I read the NYT article after the “pig fight” between two local chefs. I was not surprised at either story. Sadly, drunks and stoners have become common in the BOH, despite drug and alcohol tests as pre employment requirements. What is wrong with people? At what point does it stop being about the food and become about the drugs? If you can’t deal with the stress without poisoning your body, then get the hell out. Leave the cooking to those of us whose heart is in it.
“What is it to work with love? It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.” Kahlil Gibran
Fat buds, eh? Nothing like a $15 tip for a $3.50 cup of coffee.
Speaks of a bigger problem to me than simply “If you can’t deal with the stress without poisoning your body, then get the hell out”. If the job is so stressful that a variety of people are turning to jobs maybe there is something wrong with the job that needs to change…It will never happen I suppose.
Interesting article and not surprising. At least when I was involved in a kitchen it was just cigarette breaks – at least until the guests left I’m guessing ;).
As a former Portlander who has moved far, far away, I can tell you one of the cruelest twists of fate – whenever I now smoke up, the overwhelming cravings I have all seem to be for Portland treats.
-Wings from Pok Pok
-Nuvrei chocolate and walnut cookies
-fries from Potato Champion
-pizza margarita from Ken’s
-hanger steak skewers from Biwa
Oh, the list goes on. Now I think I’ve figured out the riddle why I smoke so much less weed since leaving. The munchies were the best part.
Nancy Rommelmann says
On a tangential note: I was in NY last week and ate at one of the Frankies’ restaurants, Frankie 457, on Court Street in Brooklyn. It was fantastic in every way–setting (that outdoor carriage house – wah!), food, service, room, bar, bartender, and the eminently sensible half-bottle of house red for $11 — really loved it and look forward to whatever they do in Portland.
back when i was just a kitten, with little in the way of responsibility, and a metabolism that just wouldn’t quit, i used to sleep in on the weekends, and upon waking indulge in a bit of the green stuff before wandering over to utopia on belmont (when it was still housed in its beautiful old space with the exposed brick). I would revel in the tastes and textures of the baja scramble, and finish up with a steamy chocolate haze sipped slowly. ah, but those were the days.
Hmmmm………munchies and obesity…..ahhhh…… the answer to the fat Americans!!
“Duane Sorenson, the founder of the coffee roaster Stumptown, said that fat buds of marijuana often end up in the tip jar at his shops.
“It goes hand in hand with a cup of coffee,” he said. “It’s called wake and bake. Grab a cup of Joe and get on with it.” ”
That loser WOULD think he invented that phrase, wouldn’t he????
That said, when I was last connected to a restaurant (2 years ago), alcohol was still waaaay more the drug of choice for everyone there (yours truly being a notable exception). If demon weed WAS smoked, it was as an off duty, strictly recreational activity.
And yeah, FD, I remember when almost EVERYONE (again except for my very square self) was snortin’ away. My personal fave was a floor manager/glorified host named Billy Gianelli at One Fifth in NYC. He’d load his fountain pen with coke so he could toke away, in front of the guests, all night.
I saw so much coke when I was in Atlantic City, it blew my mind. I never partook but I had ample opportunity. One of our assistant restaurant managers used to give the servers bumps on days when they worked double shifts to keep them going.
One really weird drug situation that I observed was when I was at CIA from 89-91. You had dope smokers on one side and hardcore junkies on the other. Seriously, there was NO middle ground.
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
I know Joisey, anyone who’s worked in a restaurant is probably like, NY Times, Yawn. It’s like the reporter has never even heard of a little book called Kitchen Confidential.
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Huh? Maybe every single restaurant I’ve ever worked in in cities across the U.S. from 1986-1998 was ahead of the trend, but, um, I haven’t met a restaurant crew (FOH or back) that hasn’t had some level of toking’ going on. Me? I wish, but the stuff makes me jittery and gives me headaches. However, I have witnessed servers, managers, dishwashers, bussers, janitors, cooks (especially cooks) and pretty much anyone else in alleys, in the walk-in, in the basement, in the storage room, on the roof, in their cars in the parking lot, in the you name it. Before, after, and during shifts. It’s sort of the great peace pipe and equalizer between often heavily divided restaurant crews.
Heck, I remember a place in NYC I worked at in 1989 that had its own pot courier who would come by all the time. And don’t even get me started on the Seattle restaurant scene in the early 1990s with all that good British Columbia bud being snuck in through the pre-911 easy to permeate border.
The NY Times article just doesn’t seem that newsworthy.
However, I think this is just mirroring larger trends. In case the NY Times hasn’t noticed, we are in an era of weed much like the 1920s was with booze. It’s all but legal in some places with pot cafes, medical marijuana dispensaries, pot growing operations all over, California raking in the tax dollars and other places turning a blind eye to most smaller amounts. I could tell you a few things about the smoking habits of certain current and ex city leaders as well, but that would be hearsay and whatnot. Just keep in mind that for most PDX gov positions no drug tests are required. Perhaps for a strong smokey reason.
Grilled Peppers says
Hard to believe this is some sort of new trend. I worked in a restaurant back in the mid-eighties in the Midwest and the cooks always had the best weed.