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Chef For Higher Co-Founder Explores Infused Meals and Industry Education | AZUCA Updates | Legalization News
“Hawaii” Mike Salman is a legend of sorts – a private curator of cannabis-infused meals across the globe. As the co-founder of Chef for Higher, a dynamic community of individuals united in oneness celebrating culinary creativity in cannabis, Mike has grown his business to new heights he never thought could be possible. In this month’s Azuca newsletter, we explore Mike’s story of creating cannabis-infused food in social clubs around the world. Additionally, we showcase the wonderful time we had at MJBizCon in Las Vegas and share some important legalization updates in regard to the latest election.
6 Questions with “Hawaii” Mike Salman, Co-Founder of Chef For Higher
Chef for Higher was born in 2015 through two of your biggest loves, cannabis and food. What were the biggest challenges when you started in the industry, and how have you been able to overcome them?
I’d say the biggest challenge was just explaining what the hell we were doing with these supper clubs and infused dinners. Starting out, we would hear a lot of comments wondering what was going to happen at an event and what you can expect, so we put a lot of emphasis on developing our pillars of entertainment, education, and empowerment, because it’s hard to educate people when you don’t have their intention. The entertainment part was easy: our food, our experience. Then the education component came from bringing people together with intentions – whether that was talking about dosing, strains, the process – we could inform them once we had their attention. After that, people would leave feeling empowered because now they have some experience and understanding in eating infused food.
The other big challenges were finding venues. Most restaurants weren’t open to it, so I started off in friend’s communal areas in buildings doing dinners very low-key. Then, when rentable places like Peerspace and Splacer started popping up, it was a little easier to find venues.
Through carefully crafted menus, you are known for your curated cannabis dishes at cannabis-infused supper clubs. Who have been the biggest influences in your career and how would you describe your culinary style to someone first learning about Chef For Higher?
The biggest influences on my career were my parents. My mother raised me vegan and when I was living in Hawaii with her for grade school I felt like I was left out of so many different social experiences. After surfing or sports, my friends would go get a plate lunch but I couldn’t have any of that – I’d eat plain rice if I was lucky. That developed my insatiable appetite to want to explore food, but it also gave me a deep appreciation for food – to this day, there’s always greens on my plate. When we’re doing our menus, there’s always something healthy. We also shop seasonal because we want people to eat what’s actually coming out of the ground now because that has the most dense nutrients, minerals, and things you need to consume at the given time of year.
As for my dad, before I eventually moved in with him, he sent me my first recipe once my mom allowed me to eat meat. Then, once I moved in with him, I had to cook for myself, he was a musician with a busy schedule playing Thursday to Sunday from 7 at night to 4 in the morning. He’d give me basic recipes, spaghetti and meatballs, arroz caldo (which is like a Filipino rice porridge) and just instilled my love for cooking and putting menus together. My first job happened to be a prep cook because his girlfriend at the time was an executive chef at a restaurant in San Francisco.
As far as my culinary style, I’m rooted in what I like to call comfort food or soul food. Food that speaks culturally to how we live and where we’re from, but also I look for the common interests and similarities in food. Most cultures have a style of fried chicken. Most cultures have a chicken noodle soup or the equivalent of what you’d eat when you’re sick. Every culture that I know has a dough that is filled – whether a pot sticker, an empanada, ravioli, pierogi – everyone has it and what I try to find is similar dishes where people can have some familiarity and feel comfortable. How we execute each dish with some fine dining techniques is how we really level it up. Again, everything we do is about bringing people together to the table, bringing that unity and celebrating that oneness, and so when you sit at my table that’s my whole intention because the whole idea is we vibrate as one. Once you’re at my table, you’re family.
What is your favorite dish to prepare when you’re home and creating meals for yourself?
My tastes are changing constantly. I’m lucky enough that I always get to eat my own food and I’m always cooking with people exploring and changing dishes. It’s hard to pick one dish that I would make, but since it’s getting close to winter and getting colder I would probably say arroz caldo. It’s just very hearty and one of those things where I’ll cook it and then me and my son will eat for the next 2 or 3 days cause the flavors actually build as it sits in the refrigerator.
You have traveled the world and shared stories with countless people who are united in their love for cannabis. What are some of the most frequently asked questions that you receive, and what is the overall attitude of your clients towards the cannabis industry as a whole today?
The most frequent question I get asked is what’s the dosage? How many milligrams is this dinner going to be? What am I gonna feel? What are the effects? There’s just so many questions and it varies from table to table.
What I try to explain is that most of those people asking those questions come from a singular experience of that one time they had a brownie and were way too effed up. Infused food and infused edibles are a much different experience and eating a small edible is going to hit you differently than that same amount of milligrams coursed out through a meal with the time it takes to ingest food. So instead of feeling like you got pushed off of a cliff and you’re trying to grasp back to reality, it’s more of an elevated stairway to heaven or elevating the cruising altitude as I like to call it on one of our flights.
You’re given the opportunity to have a private infused-dinner party with any 4 people in the world, past or present. Who is attending and why?
It would be Bob Marley, Tupac, Michael Singer, and the Feminine Divine. The Feminine Divine would set the table. I truly believe that it’s our femininity that really brings us together. It’s nurturing, it’s truth, it’s the soul and it’s the mother’s love that we’re missing so much of right now. I would love to understand that feeling of just being open, vulnerable and authentic. Bob Marley just because of his insight, his love and desire to bring people together and truly understand that one love that we’re all the same thanks to his music and culture. Tupac because he lived fearlessly, unadulterated, authentically and I think we’re missing that too right now. I’d be very curious to hear his perspective on this time we’re living in now. And then Michael Singer because of his works, and his books that he’s written, “The Untethered Soul,” “Living Untethered,” and “The Surrender Experiment.” I’m practicing a lot of what he’s written right now in terms of surrendering to all that is and not being resistant to what life and the universe puts in front of you. I think being able to feed them and have open dialogue would be such an incredible conversation.
As adult-use is legalized throughout the country and the communal use of cannabis is normalized at places such as social lounges, a burgeoning new market of people discovering the benefits of the plant in a social way is only just beginning. What is your biggest piece of advice to someone who may be enjoying an infused dish for the first time?
Someone enjoying an infused meal should be intentional about it. Too many times people sit back and say cannabis should make them feel a certain way, and I think their intentions change the experience. We’re the guides of our emotions, we’re the guides of our feelings, and I think cannabis wants to create homeostasis, it wants to give us balance, but a lot of the time we just think it will do it all for us, but it needs a little bit of our intention — a little bit of the “why” to fuel that – and to get us to that place where we want to be.
“Hawaii” Mike is a branding maestro and founder of Chef for HigherTM, a pioneering culinary and culture brand leading the exciting new era of Cannabis legalization. Chef for HigherTM specializes in creating exemplary Cannabis-infused sweet & savory foods and hosting popular tastemaker dining events. For over 25 years, he’s been on the frontlines of music, media, and lifestyle, using Hip-Hop and Cannabis as conduits for pursuing his passions and refining his alchemy. Hawaii has worked with legendary Hip-Hop groups like Mobb Deep and consulted for global brands including Nike, Reebok, Estee Lauder, and Mountain Dew. As a talent manager he guided the careers of influential personalities Nigel Sylvester, DJ Clark Kent, and Jonathan Mannion. He founded LTD magazine, served as a lifestyle editor for The Source magazine, and was co-founder & editor-in-chief of tattoo publication INKED. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, VH1, BET, and Forbes. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is available for Private HigherTM catering events, Cannabis-related thought panels, and speaking engagements.
Azuca at MJUnpacked
Viva Las Vegas! We had so much fun at this year’s #MJBizCon sharing cannabis cocktails, seeing old friends, meeting new ones and showcasing AZUCA TiME INFUSION™. Additionally, Azuca CEO and Co-Founder, Kim Sanchez Rael, gave a special presentation during the expo, “Water and Oil Don’t Mix: The Latest in Cannabis Food and Beverage Innovation.” We can’t wait to be back!
Congratulations, Hedy Edibles!
Congratulations to our friends at Hedy Edibles and Columbia Care for winning Gold at this year’s MarCom Awards! The award-winning packaging is available in three flavors: cherry lime, green apple and watermelon – and is powered by our fast-acting AZUCA TiME INFUSION™ formulations to provide quick-onset in 5-15 minutes. Available in CO, DE, MO, VA, AZ and MA. For more information, visit https://hedyedibles.com.
Wana in New Mexico!
Wana Quick and Fast Asleep products have finally landed in New Mexico and we could not be more excited for the land of enchantment. Read more about Wana Quick and the great work they are doing with cannabinoids and terpene profile development at https://www.wanabrands.com/.
National – About seven in 10 Americans say that marijuana should be legalized—including majorities of all political parties and age demographics—according to the latest Gallup poll released on November 15th.
New York – On November 21, the New York Office of Cannabis Management issued adult-use cannabis retail licenses to 36 applicants, including 28 “justice-involved” individuals and eight nonprofit organizations. The candidates were chosen from a pool of 903 applicants and officials plan to issue 150 more licenses to businesses.
Colorado – Colorado voters approved an initiative on the ballot to legalize possession of certain psychedelics and create psilocybin “healing centers” on election day, November 8th.National – Nine congressional lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden on November 14th, imploring him to extend his recent marijuana pardon action to include immigrants who have citizenship status issues. The letter—led by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Chuy García (D-IL)—also calls on Biden to reopen immigration cases for the tens of thousands of people who’ve been deported over simple marijuana possession offenses.