In the year 2000, Colorado legalized what some call “Mary Jane” or “Ganja” to be used legally as medical marijuana. Some feel that the benefits of medical marijuana would be better attained with methods other than smoking.
Colorado restaurant owners Wanda James and Scott Durrah decided to offer monthly gourmet marijuana cooking classes at their Caribbean restaurant “8 Rivers” in Denver every third Saturday of the month. They opened “Apothecary of Colorado”, a medical marijuana dispensary. “We are not new to understanding the medicinal value of marijuana,”says Durrah.
“We’re focusing on complete holistic health,” says his wife Wanda James. “We want you to be able to use marijuana as a regimen throughout your day, throughout your life.” To sign up for classes you must have a medical marijuana card. Scott’s wife says they’re experimenting with small bits of marijuana into 8 Rivers’ trademark jerk chicken, and they’re even working on pot teas and Cannabutter for breakfast pancakes. The first class is scheduled for January.
8 Rivers owner and chef Scott Durrah, whose heritage is Jamaican and Italian, acquired his love of spicy, slow-cooked dishes of the Caribbean just outside of Port Antonio, Jamaica, where Durrah cooked with locals for ten years and leaned the art of Jamaican jerk — meat and fish are bathed in marinades with fourteen different spices including Scotch Bonnet Peppers, and herbs, then wrapped in plantain leaves and steamed over smoky pits with Pimento wood”adding fire is the “Jerk”. There’s Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork and Smoked Fish.
Intrigued, we caught up with Wanda with some culinary questions about their marijuana cooking classes.
FriendsEAT: Which came first: your idea for a dispensary or for medical marijuana cooking classes and why did you decide to follow this route?
Wanda James: Cooking has always been apart of ventures, Marijuana presented a different challenge, we are very strong supporters of legalizing marijuana and the medical benefits it provide for people
FE: Do you need a license to hold the classes or to attend?
FE: Many of the marijuana foods people tend to think of are sweet. What savory dishes would people be surprised to know about?
WJ: Not necessarily dishes, but rather sauces, oils, pastes, dressings, everyday cooking items you use all the time. Our goal to show u how to incorporate these items in dishes you already know and love. Oh yes we do have some surprises as well.
FE: For medicinal purposes, you probably have to have exact amounts of marijuana in a dish. Does that present a challenge when you’re creating recipes?
WJ: No, our research gives us a safe level to know how much to add.
FE: What will you be teaching your students? Techniques specific to cooking with marijuana or recipes in general?
WJ: Recipes in general and we will see where the demand takes us
FE: What are some of the techniques unique to cooking with marijuana?
WJ: Cooking techniques are the same as everyday cooking
FE: As medical marijuana becomes more accepted (and legal), do you think it’ll become its own food genre?
WJ: Oh yes, just like health food.
FE: For the recreational user who has tried brownies; the taste of the marijuana probably wasn’t the highlight. Are there varieties that don’t need to be masked by strong flavors?
WJ: That’s the secret that we will show people when creating sauces, oils, dressings. Etc..
FE: You have some tasty drinks on your menu. Do you have any marijuana drink recipes ” with or without alcohol?
WJ: Yes we will have them as well at one of our future classes that will concentrate on beverages.
FE: Many medical marijuana users take it to increase their appetites. Do you have a chicken and egg situation when you’re making dishes with marijuana for medicinal use?
WJ: No, it does not affect you the same way smoking does when consuming edibles because you are also eating food that addresses the craving.
FE: Are members of your class predominately members of your dispensary?
WJ: Yes, but it is open to no patients as well.
FE: Are there similar classes to yours that you know of ” in Colorado or California, somewhere else?
WJ: No, we intend to offer a twist and some cool surprises
FE: Besides the legal aspects, what were some of the challenges of opening a dispensary compared to opening a restaurant?
WJ: The unknowns, the daily changes, no road map, no experiences to pull from…..
FE: Have you had pushback from the community or have they been more supportive of your cause?
WJ: Very supportive, it’s all about the character of the owners
FE: Ounce for ounce, what’s the cost of marijuana compare to? Is it truffle and foie gras territory or closer to everyday ingredients like chicken, beef, organic vegetables?
WJ: A little more expensive than norm, not that much more
FE: Traditional marijuana dishes aren’t particularly healthy (high in sugar and fat, low in nutritional value). Are your dishes healthier?
WJ: Everything we do is healthy
FE: People think that Marijuana is no stranger to the Caribbean areas where you cultivated your style of cooking. Do you find the ingredient to be a natural fit for jerk and other Caribbean preparations?
WJ: It is very important to know that Reggae and Bob Marley are not connected to Pot, many Jamaicans do not consume pot, in fact Jamaica has more catholic parishes than any other Caribbean island…So pot and Jamaican food have no common ground
We’d like to thank Wanda for taking the time to speak to us and we wish her and Scott much luck in their ventures.
8 River is located at: 1550 Blake Street, Denver, CO (303) 623-3422
Apothecary of Colorado is located at: 1730 Blake Street, Denver CO (303) 296-5566
Here are some of the Marijuana recipes:
Special Pot Pasta Recipe
Marijuana Chili Meatballs Recipe
Fantastic Pot Brownies Recipe