As soon as the news broke that the first competitive cannabis cooking show was set to debut on Netflix, lots of people had high hopes, grand expectations and a few reservations. To be the first of its kind meant that it had such a lofty standard to uphold and people were eager to see if the series would actually be able to to get it right. The cannabis industry is so vast and there was a lot of room to wonder if “Cooking on High” could successfully deliver on all fronts — elevating cannabis without demonizing stoners, putting a spotlight on cuisine without overshadowing cannabis, keeping the tone entertaining without being trivial, offering education without being stale and, perhaps most importantly, still being an exciting cooking competition.
Were they able to pull it off? Kind of.
Youtuber and actor Josh Leyva hosts the series that gives viewers a quick glimpse into the vast world of cannabis cooking. He’s chill, casually comfortable in front of the camera and graciously lets the spotlight shine on the cast of rotating feature judges that include comedians, musicians and entertaining personalities. Comedian, writer and cannabis connoisseur Ngaio Bealum does a good job as the resident cannabis expert, offering clarifying information and tidbits of knowledge with his quirky flair.
During each 15-minute episode, two competing chefs are challenged to make a dish based on a theme that is introduced before the round begins. They’re given 30 minutes to cook an infused dish of their choice before serving it to the judges. The chef that scores the most cannabis leaves out of 20 total points get to take home the coveted golden pot (yes, a literal pot) and bragging rights throughout the cannabis culinary scene.
Once the novelty of “Am I really watching what I think I’m watching?” wears off, there are things you start to wish were included in the episodes. It would have been nice to really get a chance to see how the chefs prepared their dishes, especially when they’re making stuff like cod cakes with chipotle aioli, pesto gnocchi or chicken and waffle kebabs. It also would have been cool to have judges that are chefs, owners of edibles companies or restaurants or other industry insiders with some cannabis knowledge under their belts to ask questions about dosage or dig deeper about pairing terpenes with certain ingredients to enhance certain flavor profile instead of just bantering a little aimlessly about how they smoke weed or eat edibles all the time. That part might be a little underwhelming for chronnoisseurs who have moved past the stage of retelling their craziest weed stories.
In general, though, it is a cool show and it’s worth watching just for the thrill of it. Depending on who you are and why you’re watching, different things will stand out throughout the episodes. You may be more fascinated by the fact that the delicious food is infused with cannabis than the outstanding technique of the chefs or more keen on getting to know more about the strains they’re using and how they will affect the judges. People who are complete newbies to the idea of cannabis-infused foods outside of brownies and desserts will be mind blown by the possibilities. Others who are more well-versed in the versatility and ever-evolving potential of cannabis in cooking will probably just be tickled to witness such a shift in cultural perception that’s being displayed on the most popular streaming service ever.
It doesn’t feel as high stakes as “Chopped” or “Iron Chef,” but that could be on purpose. No one’s reputation is on the line, everyone is just having fun. If nothing else, “Cooking on High” is definitely a conversation starter and fun thing to spring on your friends, family or cool co-workers who don’t believe such a thing does — or could ever — exist.
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