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© 2017 MERRY JANE. All Rights Reserved.

Baked to Perfection: Two Lifted Recipes That Will Make Your Next Barbecue a Hazy Affair

Chef Jean — the pseudonym of a Georgia edibles maestro — teaches us how to make Summer Barbecue Portobello Bacon and a Jicama Nectarine Coleslaw just in time for the long weekend.

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Photos courtesy of Ashley Henderson

Full disclosure: I know Chef Jean personally. She has catered weed dinners at my home in Atlanta, where we both live. But since marijuana is still illegal in all its iterations in our shared state of Georgia, she will be identified as just Chef Jean throughout the piece. However, Jean’s Instagram — where she showcases homemade treats for sale like five-cheese macaroni and French Toast with marijuana blackberry syrup — is a public arena from which she makes money. From the ‘gram and other channels, Jean hoists her classically-trained cooking skills to sling goods to a variety of folks — from older cancer patients to young people looking for another way to chill.

Chef Jean got with MERRY JANE to talk about cannabis cooking in an illegal state, the double-edge sword of silence in the marijuana community, and getting stoned at the family dinner table growing up. She also shared two infused recipes that are perfect for any barbecues you might be attending during this upcoming holiday weekend. Enjoy!

Lifted Summer Barbecue Portobello Bacon

Ingredients

Instructions:

Set oven at 350. Whisk the marinade together and add portobello. Soak for about 15 minutes. Shake off extra liquid and line strips on a parchment lined sheet tray.  Bake for 20 minutes, carefully flip, and cook for about 20 more minutes. Remove from sheet tray and cool on a drying rack.

Summer Jicama Nectarine Coleslaw with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Ingredients:

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until completely pureed and smooth.

Jicama Nectarine Salad

Ingredients

Instructions:

Slice all ingredients into Julienne using a good knife or mandolin. Toss in Creamy Avocado dressing. Enjoy and relax.

MERRY JANE: Tell me a little about the challenges of making and selling herb-infused food in a state where marijuana is still illegal. 
Chef Jean: So, as you know, Georgia is really struggling when it comes to passing any type of legalization concerning the plant. We only just now have CBD oil available to a select few [retail areas] and it could be years before we get full access. I struggle every day trying to keep myself and my business safe — but at the end of the day, I still have to take risks to get my name out there. One of the biggest challenges is getting proper marijuana flower at a reasonable price to cook with. Georgia’s price point is still very much inflated due to limited access and law.

You've done a lot of traveling to more weed-friendly states like Oregon recently. What were some of the major differences you noticed between the cannabis communities there and in Georgia?
The communities were a lot more tight-knit. There are whole neighborhoods built around this wonderful plant. Also in Colorado and Oregon — I don’t know if it is from the weed or the different range of people — it is so quiet and peaceful. In the Atlanta area, I have been trying to reach out to other chefs and farmers in the industry and it really hard just to get a response back. Everyone is so scared and silent. The main problem our state faces is that so many people are for legalization, but no one is brave enough to talk about it.  

How have you seen general public acceptance of marijuana change over the past few years?
Well, I believe it’s becoming destigmatized and people are really coming to understand all of marijuana’s benefits. Also, it’s all in the neighborhood you live in. Some people are for it and some people are shunned if you even mention the word. I am lucky that my customer base is looking for a safer option to consume, and the people that I cook for can range anywhere from a kid in college trying to buy treats for a festival to a 65-year-old woman just looking for relief from her chemotherapy.

What first got you interested in using weed in your cooking? Tell me about your relationship with marijuana before you started using it in your work.
I smoked for the first time when I was 15 with my older brother and I haven’t really stopped since. In my house, it was very pro-marijuana. I could smoke at the dinner table with my family — mom included — before a meal. I actually cook infused meals for them on holidays now. Have you ever had a turkey stuff with infused vegetables? AMAZING. My sister just had a birthday and I made her an infused carrot-crusted cheesecake. So the encouragement and support from my family is definitely a factor that keeps me motivated.

When I was in college, I started experimenting with different pot brownie recipes and really loved it. After taking a very intense shrooms trip, I realized that I should be cooking instead of going to school. So I quit, moved to Atlanta, and started going to culinary school. I have been in the food industry for five years now and I wouldn’t imagine my life without a knife in my hand.

There was one Fourth of July a couple of years ago that I made medicated chocolate mini muffins with cream cheese icing and fruit on top. Safe to say that was the chilliest Fourth of July I have ever had and my friends convinced me that I should start selling edibles. Over the past two years, that’s been my full focus, and it’s safe to say it is going pretty good so far.    

What kind of steps do you take to make sure you're legally safe with your food? Have you talked with chefs in other illegal states? If so, what kind of camaraderie do you share?
I currently have turned my home kitchen into “my little industrial kitchen that could.” I currently can’t rent a real kitchen due to legal restrictions, but hopefully I will be able to find one in the next year or so. I treat everything I create as real food because IT IS. Everything has an expiration date, everything is temperature controlled, everything is cooked to food-safe standards. I hold myself to very high standards in the quality of everything I prepare because I am creating something big here in Georgia. As I mentioned earlier, the weed community here is large but silent. It is very hard to reach out to other chefs like me because they are skeptical — which we should be. Everyone is paranoid but that is what is keeping us safe. I have met a fellow baker here in Atlanta and he is awesome! There will be some recipe collabs coming soon so keep an eye out on Instagram.

How did you develop the recipe for the dish you're sharing with us today? Any pairing tips?
I am always looking for a new salad recipe and I love any excuse to use avocado. Although personally I am not a vegetarian, I really love learning new ways to get that meaty flavor most veg heads are craving. Also I have this Woodford Reserve weed-infused bourbon I am working on for a wedding, so it was a way I could test out the potency of the alcohol — which I think is the perfect complement to the pseudo bacon. I would pair this dish with an ice-cold glass of Smoked Paloma (using mezcal instead of plain old tequila) or a strong Old Fashioned.  

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