This San Francisco gastronomist is redefining “gourmet” with his Michelin star-style cannabis infusions
What do cannabis, fine dining, and a Michelin star restaurant have in common? Meet Michael Magallanes, Founder of Opulent Chef. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of dining with Chef Michael on Valentine’s Day for the launch of the new gourmet event series called The Hightened Series. In partnership with Naked Kitchen, this exquisite dining experience was like no other. It was also the first time I’ve ever experienced a seven-course cannabis dinner. From the moment I set eyes on the menu, I knew I was in for a treat, beginning with a milk sphere infused with Girl Scout hash, honey, and juniper. This menu was something you’d only find at a five-star restaurant, which was no surprise given Chef Michael Magallanes’ extensive background.
As a passionate foodie, Chef Michael began cooking at a very young age. After traveling and cutting his teeth in South America as a chef, he moved to San Francisco to pursue his dreams in the culinary world. Chef Michael trained professionally for ten years at various restaurants, and for the last five years of his training, he was a chef for Mourad Lahlou; first at Michelin-starred Aziza, then for the opening of Michelin-starred Mourad, one of the most celebrated restaurants in San Francisco. Pushed by his entrepreneurial spirit, he decided to leave typical fine dining behind and launched the Opulent Chef in 2016 to showcase his artful creations to the public.
After tasting Chef Michael’s food and highlighting him during The Herb Somm’s Thursday Infused launch event, his culinary creations are sure to impress. He has a gift for perfectly plating each ingredient that plays a vital role in his menu’s story. Harmoniously combining the flavors, aromas, textures, and intricacies of cannabis and food, this is the art of gourmet cooking at its finest.
Before the next Hightened Series event kicks off on Saturday, May 19th, I got the inside details on what it takes to become an “opulent” chef as well some tips for cooking with cannabis provided by Chef Michael.
Tell us about yourself and why you became a chef?
I've always loved to cook for friends and family as a hobby ever since I was very young. I wanted to keep cooking as a spare-time activity, learn and have fun, but it got to a point where I couldn't keep learning and expanding myself culinarily unless I took my studies to the next level and made it my profession. That's when I knew I wanted to build a career as a chef.
Your background is very impressive. Coming from a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants, what has been the most rewarding aspect of becoming a cannabis chef?
Working in Michelin-starred restaurants gave me an understanding of what luxury in a dining experience means. In modern restaurants, the notion of opulence in dining is about skillfully preparing and masterfully presenting unexplored ingredients to the guests. I see cannabis as an unexplored ingredient that should be integrated into a menu. For me, the most rewarding aspect of becoming a cannabis chef is working with the herb itself as an unexplored, unexploited ingredient with endless potential.
I can really taste the quality and care that go into your dishes. What is your approach to creating such thoughtful infusions?
My approach to creating infusions starts with tasting the cannabis. Once I get an idea of the flavor profile, I go from there. I try to taste the food with my mind first, then recreate that taste in the material world. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but regardless, it becomes the base of something that I can make better and better through trial and error until I am happy enough to serve it to my guests.
Tell me about your approach to creating sensory experiences that incorporate flavors, aromas, and textures at your events. I loved tasting the infused milk sphere at the Valentine's Day dinner. That was an entire experience all on it own!
At my events, I like to create a menu that ebbs and flows and tells a story. Since I'm offering multiple courses, I have to think of the menu as one. This means creating an experience that incorporates all of the various textures, flavors, and aromas available in a fully complete dish spread out over all the courses. For example, I'll have a course that has a crunchy texture that comes out after a dish that has a soft texture. A completed dish will have both of these textures, and as one eats, the food is enjoyable because of this fact.
For my dinners, I create multiple courses that amount to one fully completed dish. To do this, I like to elegantly use hydrocolloids or the ingredient’s natural mouthfeel to create items that are texturally interesting. I'll also cook multiple stocks overnight, then reduce them with various aromatics for hours until the aromas and flavors are concentrated, and the collagen and gelatin from the bones leave a perfect mouthfeel.
What are some of your favorite cannabis products to cook with?
My favorite cannabis products to work with are either ice water hash or ideally rosin made from ice water hash. Getting rid of the excess plant material through the process of making hash or rosin leaves a cleaner more pleasant terpene forward cannabis flavor in the food. It compliments the ingredients as opposed to overpowering it.
What advice would you give to a beginner cannabis chef?
The advice I would give to a beginner cannabis chef is to learn an efficient, effective, and consistent decarboxylation method. From there, make sure to dose your dining guests accurately and safely. As a chef working with cannabis, we are taking the responsibility of dosing in our hands. The worst thing we could do is over serve a guest, so we have to take this responsibility very seriously.
What are two foods you cannot live without?
Two foods I can't live without would be French toast and French fries. Not because they both have the word "French" in their names. I love these two foods because they are delicious!
Photo Credit: Alex Junho Kim
A special thank you to Chef Michael Magallanes for his creativity and passion for cooking with cannabis. Also a heartfelt thank you to Naked Kitchen for hosting this cutting-edge event series.
To learn more about Chef Michael Magallanes or to attend The Hightened Series, please visit www.opulentchef.com or follow on Instagram @opulentchef and @thehightenedseries.
To purchase tickets for the Saturday, May 19th Hightened Series dinner event, please click here. Hope to see you there!
Peace, Love & Cannabis,
The Herb Somm
Photo Credit: Opulent Chef