Article by The Bold Italic
I have never eaten sea urchin, but I suspect this is the first time it’s been plated on top of a French toast stick. It’s slimy and smells a little bit like sea water, but I’m high, so I put it into my mouth. Thirty seconds later, a man declares, “This is food science!” He is definitely also high.
I’m sitting at a table of 30, participating in San Francisco’s first Michelin-starred cannabis-infused dining experience. Gourmet chef Michael Magallanes is infusing an eight-course meal with Nasha’s cold-water-extracted hash. But rather than being a weed dinner where guests eat edibles before arriving or smoke between courses, this meal will involve cannabis that’s present in cooking oils, purees and powders. It will be integrated into the meal like any other ingredient.
Michael is the Bay Area chef who helped bring Mourad its Michelin stars. At Mourad, he built a reputation for balancing flavors and assembling beautiful plates. This is also where he met Barron Lutz, founder of Nasha. After the “burnout of working for three months with no days off,” Michael quit the restaurant circuit to start his own personal brand — Opulent Chef. He now teaches classes, cooks private meals and works part-time for the WIRED kitchen. This leaves him time for culinary experiments.
Michael doesn’t seem capable of excitement. All his fascinations are completely intellectualized — the thin line of his mouth never wavers across some vast emotional monotone. And yet he finds everything interesting. His detached purveyance of Oakland weed fests focuses not on getting baked but on the ravenous chewing noises of a dense crowd working their way through several hundred boxes of Costco pizza. “It got hella quiet,” he says. “It was the biggest stoner moment I’ve ever witnessed.”
Despite being the first Bay Area chef to orchestrate a full fine-dining cannabis experience, Michael isn’t particularly invested in cannabis culture. He grew up in Sacramento. “Cannabis was everywhere I grew up, but I went years without smoking weed,” Michael says. His investment is in the “cerebral experience” it can bring to a dinner. Meals are “a journey the chef takes you on,” and marijuana creates “peaks and troughs” in the experience of an eight-course meal.