Cannabis Heavy Hitters: ‘Pass That Hors D’oeuvre’

Article and Photography by Sam Burgess

Chef David Yusefzadeh

When attending a soirée that doesn’t advertise the address and adheres to a strict guest list, there is an air of mystery reminiscent of a prohibition-era party. Walking up the stairs of a historic theater into one such event revealed a scene of laughter, snacking, and the celebration of cannabis cultivation. 

Bags of cannabutter-dressed popcorn were available at the door and cocktail waitresses circled the space with a variety of delicious infused small bites. Since cannabis was legalized for adult use in Rhode Island in December, 2022, the future of the herb has never looked brighter. 

The culture surrounding marijuana and food has always been a funky space. Traditionally, amateur cooks play around with cannabutter or you pick up lab-made gummies or chocolates – not a culinary experience. As marijuana edibles gain mainstream popularity, consumers are more particular about what and how they consume – and it’s not just about getting high. 

Back in the kitchen, chef David Yusefzadeh orchestrates all of these delicious hors d’oeuvres. Chef Yusefzadeh, who has worked around the world in fine dining restaurants and hotels, sees marijuana as an enhancer to his cuisine. “This is not a party trick or trend. My team and I do not hide the flavor of the herb but find specific uses for each specific strain,” Chef Yusefzadeh explained.  

Dishes included braised pork shoulder with herb-infused breadcrumbs and creamy polenta, herbaceous chimichurri on grilled shrimp skewers, caramel pot de creme, carrot cake, and much more. The bar served blood orange & rosemary soda with sunset sherbert terpenes, a refreshing beverage to keep the vibes flowing. 

This transition from hardcore chef to cannabis pioneer didn’t happen overnight. For  Yusefzadeh, using marijuana was initially a way to treat Crohn’s Disease, a disease he developed in 2011. “The chemical treatments put my body through hell. The best relief always came from CBD oils and edibles,” he recalls.

“My pivot into infused cuisine is to share my improved health by using the herb. That’s why I’m dedicating this chapter of my career to pushing the boundaries of it as a flavor”

This passion for elevated cuisine led him to start his own culinary group focused on the pungent herb, pushing it to reach its maximum potential. Plant Jam is his catering brand born to celebrate marijuana as a flavor centerpiece, utilizing its rich aroma and diverse flavor profiles for a wide array of infused parties, brunches, and cannabis retreats.

David and the Plant Jammers have developed an original line-up of infused ice cream under the brand Cloud Creamery. “The research and development process is one of my favorite parts of the job – when we analyze the flavor and decide what to pair it with for the best end product,” Chef  Yusefzadeh explains. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based brand uses full-spectrum cannabis to implement aromatic top notes for flavors like Piña Colada, Chocolate Truffle, Caramel Apple Crumble, and more.

For anyone who has experimented with edibles before, dosing is one of the most important aspects to ensure you and your friends don’t get lost in the sauce. Chef  Yusefzadeh stressed this as one of the most crucial points for anyone hoping to get into infused cuisine. “Watch Bong Appetit or read a cannabis cookbook, there are so many good resources out there,” he explains. “Or wait until I release my cookbook, coming soon!”

Stepping out of the kitchen, the walls of the event were packed with industry leaders, dispensaries, and cultivators. The attending cannabis brands showcased their extracts, known by the kiddos as dabs, in a tasting bar setup. This honey-like substance is made by pressing fresh or frozen flower, to extract the oils, terpenes, and psychoactive ingredients in a pure form. The result is a clean puff of terpene-rich flavor with a significantly higher concentration of THC. One taste is all it takes!

For cultivators Livity LLC, based in Pawtucket, cannabis is a family affair, as most of the operators were cousins or immediate family members. What started as a grow operation for worms and compost turned into the perfect fuel for growing incredible cannabis. They turned a dilapidated mill building into one of the fastest-growing marijuana operations in the state.

The event wrapped up with a comedy routine and raffles for the guests. Incorporating more arts, music, and performances into events like these grow the culture and sophistication surrounding cannabis. It might be one of the first of its kind, but definitely not the last. Check out Green Lite Entertainment for more of their events later this year. 

As cannabis connoisseurs become more mainstream, these types of gatherings will move away from the shadows and become more celebratory. The Rhode Island heavy hitters know how to throw a party!