Back and Forth: Jeff the 420 Chef

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Leela Cyd/Courtesy

According to reports and stories from the deep dark web, some buddies and Berkeley hearsay, a faction of kids at San Rafael High School in the ‘70s invented the idea of “420,” an exclusive marijuana-inclusive term symbolizing the group’s meeting time to smoke pot from some abandoned crop in town — or so it goes. The kids called themselves Waldos and met each afternoon at a Louis Pasteur statue on campus.

Eventually, the world of cannabis began using and passing around the term 420, the ultimate signal to gather and light up together: joint, pipe, bong, blunt or, perhaps, break apart and share an edible, the culinary equivalent for both medical marijuana patients and recreational users, and definitely as effective, if not stronger.

This is what Jeff likes. “JeffThe420Chef” to be precise and clear.

Jeff — who publicly goes with just his first name — cooks cannabis-infused foods that don’t have the pungent taste of traditional marijuana edibles. He spends hours behind the stove, pot and grill, crafting and blending the finest marijuana strains into quality food that you can find in your uptown restaurant. He does dinner parties, private dinners and meal preparations. He even has a cookbook coming out in June, appropriately titled “The 420 Gourmet: The Elevated Art of Cannabis Cuisine.”

It all started five years ago when the mother of a friend grew ill. She obtained a prescription for medical marijuana, or MMJ, but didn’t want to smoke. Solution? Jeff enjoyed baking and cooking, so at first he tried just cooking for her, without the marijuana. But, the baking was brilliant and he was having so much fun cooking that he wanted to see if he could venture back into the glory of college cuisine and bake some edibles. It then became more.

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Jeff 420: She enjoyed the fact she could have brownies and cookies but wasn’t fond of the taste. That’s the beginning of being challenged with the taste issue. Took me about 18 months, but I took out the taste and made light-tasting “cannabutter” and “cannaoil.”

The Daily Californian: So, tell me about your first experience with cannabis?

J420: I was 15 years old. I was on a trip with a couple of friends; we went to New York, snuck away and tried it. Had my first experience …when I was first doing edibles and a friend of mine tried it and threw marijuana in a brownie. Got sick from it, holy — “I’m not doing this again.” From this experience, flash forward 35 years and it’s a whole different experience.

DC: Is there a reason you want to cook and bake MMJ?

J420: I am doing this because of a lot of people don’t smoke and they have prescriptions. They don’t smoke, but they know cannabis helps a lot of ailment, like CBD (cannabidiols). I cook for people that are truly ill and they are being medicated with cannabis. I cook for them so they can get better.

DC: When you cook, what’s your favorite strain to use? And do you supply the cannabis for your patrons?

J420: My favorite is Charlotte’s web. ACDC is a really good one. Harlequin is good for feminine issues; women who have PMS and other female-related issues do really well with Harlequin. What I do, I do not supply the cannabis. I will go to somebody’s place and they supply the cannabis. I cure it, dry it and “decarb” it and cook it with the butter and oil.

DC: Now, I’ve seen online videos of people trying to make edibles and they use butane, and they try to make the oils, and ultimately, they end up blowing up and burning down the house or hurt themselves. … Is there a risk in cooking?

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J420: They’re doing it wrong. There is no way you can cause an explosion if you do it properly. The process that I teach is a two- to three-day process, soak it in distilled water … then what you want to do is to put that dry, decarbed herb in butter and oil in a separate container, then french press it with a pot of boiling water. It acts like a double boiler — heating the butter and the hot water that surrounds the french press is making the butter hot enough to take the THC and CBD to infuse the butter and oil, and you basically do it on a stovetop.

DC: What is your favorite memory from cooking for others?

J420: I cook with some really well-known chefs. Every time I cook for a chef, it is really memorable. I cooked for six people and their new CEOs, and one of them had a bright idea to do a cannabis dinner. And they all had med cards and came together, and we did this party and the first three hours, the CEO was being a jerk to everybody. Three hours later, he’s laughing on the floor, rolling on the floor. By the end of the night he was my best friend. Sometimes you need something like cannabis to lighten up things and appreciate each other. Another one, we did a party for 18 people, 9 people got a sativa dinner, and 9 got indica. The (sativa), they were having exciting, creative conversations, while the indica were having a philosophical discussion. It goes to show different strains have different effects.

DC: What’s your view on decriminalization? Do you feel that the prohibition of marijuana will end anytime soon?

J420: I believe we are in that place where prohibition is being lifted, with congressmen that are very involved with marijuana policy project. Cannabis will be legalized by 2020. Senators and congressmen believe it. When I cook for sick people, I don’t charge.

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DC: How’s the competition?

“And they all had med cards and came together, and we did this party and the first three hours, the CEO was being a jerk to everybody. Three hours later, he’s laughing on the floor, rolling on the floor. By the end of the night he was my best friend.”

J420: There is none. There are nine other cannabis chefs out there, I don’t believe anybody is doing the way I do it.

DC: You serve to many people I’m assuming — dinner parties, what other venues?

J420: I only cook in people’s homes. I have been at yacht party over the summer, but we haven’t done it yet. Having a boat party and that’s gonna be in Oregon, in Portland.

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DC: If anyone wants to try cooking or baking, do you have any recommendations? Safety tips, taste, quality control?

J420: Yeah yeah, you want to use grass-fed butter. My favorite is Darigold butter because it is the highest quality. Grass-fed butter, when using oils, you can use any high-fat oils, coconut. … I will infuse refined coconut oils, but I use extra virgin for Asian dishes. I will infuse the coconut with sesame oil, and all those types of recipes are in my cookbook. If you are cooking with cannabis, never cook or bake over 340 degrees Fahrenheit because cannabis and THC start to degrade at 365, CBD at 390 with 20 to 25 degrees fluctuation. You should be fine if you are at that point. If you are making cannabutter or cannaoil, always decarb your bud before cooking.

DC: What do you offer for people interested?

J420: I was teaching classes in SF and then I got bogged down with my book. I’m working with a TV show, and private classes I still do, but I try to have people get four to five friends together. I do offer classes, time permitting. If someone wants a class, and they just ask me about it, I will.

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In due time, all cannabis use will be legal, Jeff explains — it’s just a matter of time. He often wonders if the federal government plans on taking marijuana off the Schedule 1 drug list. And for Jeff — well, marijuana to Jeff is just marijuana. Not recreational, not medicinal. Just marijuana, nice and simple.

At the end of one of our conversations, Jeff said something that only made sense: You have to see how cannabis really works to know. As for the future, major culinary cannabis businesses or eateries selling edibles are unlikely. It’s all a liability issue. He knows that standards just have to be placed.

When Jeff goes to cannabis events, he meets other people, groups, vendors. There aren’t just baked edibles, but all forms of cannabis: wax, bud, oil. That’s the other side of cannabis, because some people just don’t want to smoke. But that’s why Jeff does what he does.

To please his cannabis clients.

 

Contact Robert Tooke at [email protected]