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Chef Jake Cohen: Holy Smokes

Chef Jake Cohen
Chef Jake Cohen. PHOTO Matt Taylor-Gross

In The Magazine

Chef Jake Cohen: Holy Smokes

Star chef Jake Cohen finds a place for weed at the Jewish table.

Chef Jake Cohen’s professional culinary journey has been ruled by two constants: his love of cooking Jewish food and his love of cannabis. The chef, social media star, best-selling cookbook author and food-scene darling has been an out-and-proud stoner from the get-go. From his website, which proudly boasts the URL, to his open discussion of using and loving cannabis, Cohen doesn’t shy away from the plant when building his personal brand—partly, he says, because cannabis has always been there for him.

“I started getting into cannabis around the same time I started getting into cooking,” he says, explaining that as a young New Yorker, he began hosting Shabbat dinner parties for his friends where food, Judaism and cannabis found a natural intersection. “Shabbat is the Jewish ritual I hold nearest and dearest to my heart,” Cohen says, referring to the weekly gathering of friends and family where prayers are sung, candles are lit, challah is eaten and wine is traditionally drunk on Fridays after sunset.

Chef Jake Cohen
Chef Jake Cohen.

“You grow up learning about the Kiddush [the Jewish prayer over the wine sung at Shabbat, but I was never a big drinker. But once we take a closer look at why we’re saying the prayer over the wine, we realize it’s about sanctification,” Cohen says. “It’s about taking the mundane and transforming it into something holy. I’ve always seen weed as the exact same thing—taking something that grows from the ground and transforming it into an elevated experience. It can make dinner taste better; it can make you laugh at jokes more easily.”

According to Cohen, hospitality is the overarching umbrella of the entire Shabbat experience. “You’re welcoming people into your home because you want to create an intention around connection,” he says. “Everything about the meaning of the ritual of the Kiddush can be swapped for cannabis.”

And for Cohen, sharing his perspective on cannabis is just as important as sharing his love of Jewish food. “In general,” he says, “I’m sharing myself. A huge part of myself is my enjoyment of cannabis.”

While cannabis is a muse for Cohen’s cooking, he says he tries to avoid cooking while stoned.

“Cooking high is a disaster,” he says, laughing. “Cannabis does help me let my mind go wild and think about how we can create new recipes and conventions for everything we already know and love. It can be really hard in a world that always demands more, next, now. Cannabis creates a space where not only am I totally relaxed, but it also chills my mind and gives me permission to explore whatever pops into my head.”

Jake Cohen's recipe book Jew-ish: A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch
Jew-ish: A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch. PHOTO Matt Taylor-Gross

It’s easy to see that creative freedom in Cohen’s The New York Times best-selling book, Jew-ish: A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch, which features cheeky takes on classic recipes such as Shakshuka alla Vodka, Salted Honey Chopped Liver, Cacio e Pepe Rugelach and Matzo Tiramisu. But don’t expect Cohen to let his cannabis creativity fly in the infused dining space. It’s something he has explored (he admits he’s rather famous in his social circle for infused brownies), but Cohen doesn’t mince his words: “I’m anti infused cooking,” he flatly states. “I love making my own edibles, a nice brownie or cookie or something, but when it comes to sitting down to enjoy a meal, I want that right dosage ingested an hour before the meal begins. I don’t want to eat infused food and only begin to feel high at the end of the meal.”

And, says Cohen, with legalized cannabis rolling out across the country and landing in New York in 2021, there are plenty of high-quality options to explore in the regulated edibles marketplace. “I’d rather support Kiva or Mindy Segal and have a product that’s correctly dosed every time,” he says. “I think the beverages are really fun—it’s just a commitment to drink the whole thing!”

As New York legalizes, keep an eye out for this multi-hyphenate talent as he continues to explore the intersection of cannabis, cooking and Jewish tradition.

Black and White Cookies by Chef Josh Cohen
Black and White Cookies by Chef Josh Cohen.

Black and White Cookies

For the Cookies
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter (or infused cannabutter) at room temperature
¾ cup packed (150g) light brown sugar
⅔ cup (135g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (270g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk chocolate chips
3½ ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), finely chopped

For the White Chocolate Glaze
1 cup white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of kosher salt

For the Dark Chocolate Glaze
1 cup dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar


For the Cookies

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, two minutes. With the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

Add the flour, kosher salt and baking soda and mix on low speed until a smooth dough forms. Add the milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Remove the mixer bowl, cover and refrigerate the dough for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper and have a five-inch-wide bowl or round cutter ready.

Scoop the cookie dough into ¼-cup balls. Working in two batches, place six cookies on each of the prepared pans, spacing them three inches apart. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until golden brown. As soon as you remove each pan from the oven, place the bowl or round cutter over each cookie and gently roll it around in gentle circles to smooth the edges into a perfect round. Let the cookies cool slightly on the pans, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining balls of cookie dough. Once all the cookies are baked and cooled, divide them between the two sheet pans, with the bottom (flat side) of each cookie facing up.

For the White and Dark Chocolate Glazes

Set a medium metal bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Put the white chocolate chips and coconut oil in the bowl and heat, stirring as needed, until melted and well combined. Do the same for the dark chocolate chips, in a separate bowl. Remove the bowls from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and kosher salt until smooth and glossy. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread the white chocolate glaze over half of the bottom (flat side) of each cookie to coat, and spread the dark chocolate glaze over the other half.

Garnish with flaky sea salt, if desired. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the glaze, then serve.

This story was originally published in issue 47 of the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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