Think the only way to use cannabis in cooking is by baking it into a brownie? Well, think again!
As creator of Sous Weed, a cannabis-focused blog offering infused recipes and delicious photography, San Francisco-based chef Monica Lo knows her munchies. Through her work, she strives to educate and open minds to the many ways in which people can incorporate this surprisingly versatile ingredient into their cooking. Featured on the TODAY Show, Huffington Post, Mary Magazine, VICE Munchies and Leafly, to name a few, Monica has truly made her mark in the industry, proving that cannabis isn’t merely a psychoactive additive, but a nutrient-dense vegetable.
We recently caught up with the influential chef to learn more about her beginnings, and how she uses her platform to empower others and de-stigmatize cannabis culture.
Let’s start at the beginning! What first got you interested in using cannabis as an ingredient?
The interest first came from the need for holistic pain management when I herniated a disc. I had trouble walking and the sciatica was debilitating. My doctor had me on opiates and nine Ibuprofen a day—I lived in a daze and worried about my liver health. I had a ruthless landlord in a strict apartment complex at the time—I had to be very discreet with the wafting scent of cannabis so cooking in a Crockpot or on the stovetop was out of the question. I had been working at Nomiku, a sous vide start-up, and thought it could work if I cooked my cannabis infusions in a vacuum-sealed bag underwater. I started documenting my discreet edibles on a blog and three years later, I’m working with cannabis full-time!
What are some of the benefits of cooking with cannabis?
I love empowering people to make their own infusions. The edibles on the market are chock-full of either sugar, preservatives, or both. They’re also extremely expensive and it’s always more cost-effective to do it yourself. When I first injured my back, I knew I needed healthier meal options and foods that reduce inflammation rather than candies and stale dispensary brownies. Once I had my basic coconut and olive oil infusions created, I was able to work them into my day-to-day recipes.
What are potential risks and how can home cooks avoid them?
Testing for potency is tricky, especially if you’re a beginner. Luckily, there’s a dosage calculator by Jessica Catalano that I use for estimating. You won’t be able to get a full breakdown of your cannabinoid readings, so for something a little more accurate, you can get the tCheck2, which allows you to measure the strength of your infusions in less than 45 seconds. You can use my code SW10 to get 10% off your order.
Your photos are beautiful. What goes into capturing the perfect shot?
A lot of planning and preparation goes into capturing the right shot, especially when I’m working with clients and their products. We have to source the right ingredients, select the best-looking buds and leaves (no blemishes!), prep the infusions, set up the overall composition, and style the food to make sure the entire dish looks perfect. Once that’s done, I need to shoot fast because food dies real quick on set!
What are some of the biggest challenges you face working with cannabis?
Accessibility to safe, clean, cannabis is crucial right now. California’s new tax rates for adult consumers are astronomical, which means a lot of patients won’t have access to the medicine they need. While legal cannabis prices are skyrocketing, people are turning to the underground market for better deals. The cannabis in dispensaries has been lab tested for mold and pesticides, which is important in creating safe infusions for consumption.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
To know that I’ve empowered someone to use this incredibly versatile plant as a tool for wellness is rewarding to me. I was able to get my health back on track with cannabis and I hope my story and recipes inspire others who may be on a similar journey.
Where do you see the future of cannabis cuisine heading?
I think we’re also going to start seeing more terpene-focused pairings with food and alcoholic beverages. Also, cannabis is a powerful medicine that’s more than just THC and CBD. There are 100+ cannabinoids produced by cannabis and I think we’re going to start seeing them isolated to be used for different wellness purposes.
Let’s move on to a little rapid fire… GO!
Indica or sativa? I’m a sativa diva!
Top 3 strains: Blue Dream, Sour Diesel, Cannatonic
Best cannabis infused meal you ever had was: Chef Coreen Carroll’s Cannaiseries Brunch.
Your first experience with cannabis was: A bong rip at a house party and I was couch locked for the entire night.
Weed essentials you can’t live without: My Journey travel pipe and my homemade CBD coconut oil cubes for popping into my morning smoothies or coffee.