Creating dishes and culinary experiences that are as fun as they are unique, Chef Luke Reyes makes the art of the cannabis edible look easy.
Reyes—along with business partners and friends Ryan Hope and Ben Gilovitz— recently founded La Hoja in Southern California, a cannabis catering and events company devoted to bringing the low-dose cannabis experience to dinner parties and events. For instance, they served their special “potsickles” at recent Coachella parties.
Reyes, 34, is husky, tattooed, and focused on bringing on good food and a good time.
“I always had a passion to cook,” Reyes said. “My mom was a single mom, so that was always my contribution—cooking. Since I was 12 years old, I was cooking for my family.”
It All Started With a Pot Brownie
Growing up in rural Massachusetts wasn’t glamorous, but it came with a few perks—namely a stream of cannabis that trickled down from Vermont and Canada. Reyes experimented with making pot brownies and ganja goo balls to sell at concerts for extra beer money. It wasn’t until his hustle in New York restaurants years later that he would fall in love with more refined culinary endeavors.
With some embellishment, Reyes talked his way into a job with celebrity Chef Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Massachusetts. But after working at the Four Seasons and a handful of other restaurants on the East Coast, he was drawn to California after attending Coachella nine years ago.
It was a good move. Reyes has since manned tasteful eateries such as Butchers & Barbers and the Corner Door, and even appeared on the Food Network’s TV show, Chopped.
Adding the Special Ingredient
Cooking with cannabis was a no-brainer for Reyes, but it didn’t happen as organically as he would’ve hoped. One night, he arrived home late and grabbed a slice of cake left in his refrigerator. Reyes was so high, he was certain someone had dosed his drink with LSD earlier in the evening. He’d soon learn the cake was simply infused with a lot of THC.
“My brother was like, ‘My bad, that was weed,’” Reyes said. But the bad experience encouraged discussions about how cannabis edibles often seem way too strong.
“I feel like all edibles on the market are all 50mg or 100 mg, and that’s unrealistic for even your average user,” Reyes said. “For even a very regular cannabis user, that’s insane.”
Last year, Reyes started experimenting with low-dose infusions on full meals when La Hoja partnered up with Zeki Farms. His first attempt was a five-course cannabis dinner featuring 20mg of THC total.
Reyes designs cannabis plates the same way he would regular dishes, taking into consideration who he’s cooking for, what’s at the farmer’s market, and what products he’s using.
A Closer Look at Chef Reyes’ Creations
At a recent comedy dinner event at Genghis Cohen in Hollywood, his menu started with a Pupu Platter of teriyaki beef skewers, shrimp and Boursin rangoon, and honey Sichuan wings. Later came the pork jowl and mushroom fried rice, fried banana in coconut caramel, and a crispy coconut and brown butter ice cream dessert.
But the centerpiece of the meal was Reyes’ homage to Chinese-American food and the classic dish, General’s Tso’s Chicken. Catering to his own tastes, Reyes makes the dish exciting by using Spanish octopus and braising it with Shaoxing wine, aromatics, fresh herbs, and a vegetable stock that uses a little bit of an infused peanut oil—which is about 3mg THC per teaspoon.
Usually, unless specifically asked, Reyes will use cannabis distillate or an oil without any terpenes in it so the dish itself can drive the flavor. In this case, he used an OG Kush distillate from CO2 Clear for the General Tso’s Octopus.
The entire intake that evening was a lovely 30mg of THC.
A true entrepreneur, Reyes has partnered with Zeki Farms to make Vireo, a cannabis-infused olive oil that will soon be on the market so you, too, can combine cannabis and gourmet cooking.