[Canniseur: I owned a restaurant in the 1990s. Cannabis and alcohol were the relaxants of choice after 12 hours in the kitchen or on the floor. Cannabis has been part of the food and wine business for decades. Great chefs are like artists and musicians.]
Chef Dan Krohmer opened Other Mama four years ago in Las Vegas, and the venture quickly got enthusiastic reviews and drew enough business to pay for itself within the first year. The establishment was instrumental in bringing attention to the local neighborhood dining scene that’s currently exploding off the Strip, away from big resorts, celebrity chefs, and menus drafted by hotel executive committees.
This year, he’ll open two more restaurants, so it’s safe to say Krohmer is one of the hardest working chefs in Las Vegas.
He’s also a cannabis smoker.
(Courtesy of Sabin Orr)
“Marijuana helps take the edge off the rest of life, to capture whatever that inner passion is for me,” says Krohmer. “I do smoke on a daily basis. I don’t wake up and get super stoned. I’m not smoking heavy amounts, but I find that marijuana allows you to get lost in your own creativity and slow down a little bit instead of just go, go, go.
The chef tried marijuana at 13 and has been a steady consumer ever since—a notable exception being his time in Japan, where he learned authentic cooking techniques on his own dime. The country remains strict about punishing those caught with cannabis.
As his career evolved, Krohmer’s perception of cannabis evolved as well. As time went by and he felt the sting of a few missed opportunities, Krohmer decided to revisit his view of cannabis.
“I believe you can abuse anything,” he says. “I stopped lying to myself about what is a realistic amount—the difference between getting stoned and doing something that allows me to achieve my goals.”
(Courtesy of Other Mama)
The chef now uses cannabis to wind down at home, fall asleep easier, reduce the anxiety that comes with everyday life, and boost his own creativity. “Allowing myself to relax and be hungry makes me want to think about food more and makes me want to create food more,” he says.
Other Mama doesn’t test for drug use when hiring, but employees need to perform at the top of their game, whether on the floor, behind the bar, or in the kitchen.
“My philosophy is: I don’t care what you’re on or what you’re doing, but if I can tell [you’re high], then you’re in trouble,” he says. “I would never be disrespectful to my customers. It would be insulting to my customers if someone felt they needed to be stoned to work here.”
Healing With Cannabis
(Courtesy of Hemant Kishore)
Hemant Kishore might be the best Indian chef in Las Vegas. He built his reputation as The 6 Pack Chef, running a meal-prep service before opening up a restaurant called The Toddy Shop. The food was incredible, but despite being a critic’s favorite, The Toddy Shop struggled to find a regular audience and didn’t last. Kishore now spends most of his time catering special events and pop-up dinners.
The day before he was scheduled to host a New Year’s Day brunch, he slipped on a chair and fractured his right ankle, putting him out of action for two weeks. He was prescribed hydrocodone to treat the pain.
“My doctors gave me a warning about how addictive it is,” the chef remembers. “They said It should be used only in cases of unbearable pain. So I wanted to get off it as quickly as I could.”
Kishore instead turned to cannabis, including tinctures and edibles, for relief. The chef was a long-time recreational cannabis consumer in India, but it wasn’t until he moved to the United States that he saw the herb’s medicinal value.
“I mainly use it for sleep. And sleep is something that chefs or anyone else in the service industry needs. If they don’t get enough, it can cause a lot of stress.”
He appreciates how cannabis is tested and regulated in the United States compared to India, where everything is sold on the black market. “It’s viewed as taboo and very frowned upon,” he says. “You can go to jail for a long time if you’re found in possession. It’s not tolerated at all.”
Meanwhile, he hopes a new generation can promote the benefits of cannabis back home in India and secure some degree of legalization in the near future. The process, unfortunately, is expected to be a slow one.
“Because of the corruption in India, it takes too long for things to happen,” he says. Everybody’s doing it, but nobody talks about it.”
Cannabis as a Recreational Vehicle
When you forget to buy a gift for someone’s birthday or another big event, It’s On Me can be your saving grace. The online service and smartphone app partners with bars and restaurants to provide instant digital gift cards, covering things like a cocktail or a multicourse wine pairing dinner, which can be sent instantly via text or email.
Here’s the irony: The founder stopped being a social drinker, in favor of cannabis.
“I gave up alcohol for a little over 20 weeks,” says David Leibner. “It allowed me to take a step back and realize how much more I appreciate what cannabis does for me versus alcohol.”
He’ll still have a glass of wine with dinner, but the entrepreneur prefers the overall benefits of marijuana, whether from smoking or taking edibles.
“Cannabis has been part of my life since I was 13,” he says. “It’s a much better recreational vehicle than alcohol. Cannabis has never affected my life in a negative way. It’s never affected my ability to do work the next day, it’s never affected a relationship I was in, it’s never affected me emotionally.”
It’s no secret that alcohol consumption is popular with those who serve food and drinks for a living, but with laws around the country loosening, more industry professionals are turning to cannabis when not on the clock, whether in social settings or relaxing at home.
Leibner’s appreciation for cannabis grew when he suffered a tennis injury last year, breaking his leg and requiring two surgeries and 12 weeks in bed. “They prescribed me so many pain pills,” Leibner says of his doctors. “I ate too many of them, because I was in so much pain, I didn’t know what else to do.”
Within a couple weeks, Leibner started including cannabis in his pain therapy in multiple forms, including topicals. “The results delivered a higher result in pain management with none of the downside,” he recalls. “No hurting my stomach or making me weird in the head. It was a big deal to me.”
Although he prefers marijuana to alcohol, Leibner believes there’s plenty of room for tourists to split vices in Sin City, as does the city, as it is expected to introduce consumption lounges this year. “I think most people are going to do both,” he says. “I think a lot of casual users are the people who will casually drink and casually smoke weed.”
Cannabis and Creativity
(Courtesy of Sabin Orr)
Brian Howard worked in restaurants on the Strip for years, mastering his craft in hot destinations like Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro at the Venetian and Kerry Simon’s Cathouse at the Luxor. When it was time to break out with his own vision, he opened Sparrow + Wolf in Chinatown, one of the most ambitious, experimental, and compelling culinary ventures in a district already overflowing with a diverse array of cuisine.
With more than two decades of experience, Howard knows that chefs often view the kitchen as a safe space and tend to be closed-off when outside of that comfort zone.
“Personally, I’ve found that the right dose of cannabis allows me to be more social outside the kitchen and enhances my creativity,” he says. “I can come up with 40 menu items in one sitting, rather than writing them down in increments over a few days.”
Since opening in 2016, Sparrow + Wolf has proven to be a restaurant that knows no limits. The menu changes frequently, and the venue was recently given an upgrade with a living-room feel to balance the modern tone of the dining room. The chef says cannabis helps the creative elements take shape, allowing him to conceptualize new and unique ideas for the restaurant.
“There’s a stigma around cannabis that people are introduced to smoking to get stoned,” he adds. “It’s really all about finding that balance where it enhances your work rather than slowing you down.”