NEW YORK — Todd English is the latest celebrity chef to embrace cannabis cooking.
Award-winning chef and restaurateur James Beard recently launched his line of gourmet cannabis-infused macaroni and cheese, the first product launch of his new packaged food brand, LastLeaf.
“We’re getting a great response,” English told ABC News Live.
Mac and cheese currently comes in two flavors, white cheddar with shells and classic cheddar with elbow macaroni.
Cannabis-infused foods and beverages have exploded onto the culinary scene as more states legalize marijuana. Already, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana to adults over 21.
The English twist on the traditional mac and cheese is currently only available in California, but later this year he hopes to expand the line to other cities that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Cooking with cannabis is not a new concept for the English. He started making dishes with this ingredient over a decade ago when his sister Wendy was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
“I watched my sister and a number of my family members go through horrible cancer,” English said.
“My sister passed away, unfortunately, but while she was in remission I was brewing things with cannabis and it really seemed to help her through the struggles she was feeling after chemo,” he said. .
Together with his business partner, Keith Burkard, English set out to develop healthy food products containing THC and CBD.
“Consumers are ready for this, but it will take a bit of time to integrate into the market,” Burkard said.
“The cannabis industry started with many secondary food groups like drinks, chips, snacks, chocolates, candies,” he added. “We are introducing edibles from the primary food group.”
There is scientific evidence that marijuana may benefit people with cancer, relieving chronic pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
Medical experts, however, have warned against using cannabis to treat mental health issues, as it may be ineffective or make symptoms worse in some people.
Cheese-wrapped pasta is far from the latest English ventures. LastLeaf says it plans to launch cannabis-infused pasta sauces, rubs, and olive oil in the coming months.
You won’t find the cannabis concoctions on his restaurant menus just yet – the chef currently owns a number of restaurants in places like Las Vegas, Boston and New York, as well as a handful of international hotspots. At the moment, he is busy opening new establishments, including The English Hotel in Las Vegas.
Located next to the Vegas Strip in the Arts District, English says its namesake hotel is a “very artisanal little boutique hotel” with a “funky vibe.” It also houses its new restaurant, The Pepper Club, which reflects the two favorite cuisines of the English, Mediterranean and Japanese.
While the global pandemic has hit the hospitality industry particularly hard, English said business at some of its restaurants, including in Alabama, Connecticut, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. .
“Weekends are getting crowded and people are going out,” he said. “It’s just a matter of being able to run the business because we don’t have all the pieces in place yet – staff, supply chain – but it’s moving forward.”
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