Above Photo by Michael Whiter
By Dan Gross
Philadelphia chef Jennifer Zavala still gets recognized on the street from her appearance on “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” where she was a contestant on the Bravo hit’s sixth season.
Zavala now keeps busy with her Cherry Bomb Catering company, doing events such as weddings and dinner parties.
And more and more often she’s using her culinary skills to prepare cannabis-infused dinner parties in the homes of “Teachers, doctors, moms, everybody” as she told Elevated Nation.
While she enjoyed smoking it, Zavala’s introduction to cannabis cooking began when her father had bladder cancer and found significant relief in the candies his daughter cooked for him.
“He said he felt like he was 40-years-old again, it was a super-positive experience,” said Zavala, who soon got into cooking edibles for herself.
“I started doing it because I have some bone issues and I couldn’t smoke where I was sometimes,” she explained.
“I have a little bit of a reputation as a chef, working for musicians and having a rock n’ roll lifestyle people would just ask me,” Zavala said of people seeking out her cannabis cooking. “It wasn’t ever anything I sought out, but it evolved into a dinner dosing, where each course is infused and has a different amount of cannabis oil cooked into it.”
“I might start with a ceviche that might have salt and hash oil in it, like one scallop drizzled with infused oil. I have made sandwiches with some medicated duck fat, infused cannabis in biscuits,” lists Zavala.
“Then there’s cannabis ice cream. People love it. I’ve made rosewater and candy ginger ice cream, apple pie. I also try to challenge myself and try unconventional things like French macaroons.
She thinks of cannabis cooking, the same way a sommelier might try to pair wines with a meal. “In a normal restaurant situation, you would try to pair your food with wine. Why shouldn’t we try to pair the right cannabis product with a particular cuisine?”
Zavala says she’s helping people. It’s hard to disagree. “Everyone’s in pain, everyone hurts and is overworked and it’s good for your mind and it’s fun,” says the chef who helped open popular Philadelphia Mexican restaurant El Camino Real and worked in several other kitchens in town.
“I love food and I’m really good at it. And I love weed and I’m really good at it,” Zavala says.
“Going through chemo is horrendous and you’re able to jumpstart people’s appetite and cook them a macrobiotic diet, it feels good,” she says.
“The idea is to get people feeling better at a really shitty time.”
If you’re in Philadelphia, or close enough, and would like to book a cannabis dinner with Chef Jen, we can help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.