s Canada becomes the second country to legalize recreational marijuana, and weed dispensaries that look like Apple Genius bars sprout in progressive states across the US, it was only a matter of time before Netflix threw its hat in the proverbial smoke ring. The result is Cooking on High, television’s first ever cannabis cooking competition show, one that remarkably fails to capitalize on either of the dual pleasures at its core: binge-watching and/while getting high.
In all fairness, Cooking on High has a steep hill to climb: watching people consume pot, by way of a bong or french onion soup, is not nearly as enjoyable as consuming it yourself. If the standard cooking show provides both vicarious pleasure and the tools to actually make the meal, Cooking on High suggests, like the Viceland show Bong Appétit, that the mere act of watching stoners eat decadent, cannabis-infused food is a draw. Hardly so.
Hosted by YouTube vlogger Josh Leyva, who has up his sleeve an impressive array of corny and alliterative marijuana puns (“doped-up dishes”; “cannabis cuisine”), the show’s structure is simple: two chefs have 30 minutes to whip up a dish with THC, after which they’re judged on a scale of one to 10 not by gastronomes but comedians or rappers who happen to smoke pot. “I prepared for today by smoking weed most of my life and eating food pretty much every day,” says one well-credentialed judge. The winner gets a sash and – wait for it – a golden cooking pot, and the episodes end after about 15 minutes as the bleary-eyed judges try to compose themselves. As the end credits run, Netflix assures us that the meals were “prescribed, prepared and consumed in accordance with local laws” and, wink wink, that “all the individuals who consumed the medicated cuisine suddenly got the urge to chill and watch TV”.
Presumably at the risk of being wonky, Cooking on High mostly avoids explaining the long process by which marijuana is distilled into edible form, one that involves decarboxylation, since raw cannabis is non-psychoactive. Instead, a Weed 101 graphic appears sporadically in the bottom-left corner, explaining the differences between various strains or how THC is “fat-soluble”, AKA easily extracted into the form of oils and butters. The chefs, one a cannabis-cooking expert trained at Le Cordon Bleu, another a veteran of the cooking show Chopped, make dishes such as cod cakes, buttered poached chicken, and soufflé. The judges, meanwhile, eat them ravenously. But more time is spent on the latter than the former, like an episode of Say Yes to the Dress that features the wedding but not the visit to Kleinfeld’s.
In a world where the former speaker of the house, once “unalterably opposed” to decriminalizing marijuana, joins the advisory board of a multi-state cannabis investment company, Netflix’s foray into weed-based entertainment has been similarly confusing.
First there was Disjointed, a sitcom about a California marijuana dispensary that was impossible to enjoy without being high, and mostly a slog even then. The streaming service then co-created its own strains of weed, packaged in artsy-looking cartridges, based on Netflix shows like BoJack Horseman and Orange is the New Black. Naturally, with public support for legalization having soared in the last half-decade, Netflix is trying to tap a lucrativemarket. But unlike, say, Broad City, it hasn’t yet found a way to integrate weed into its programming and marketing without constantly winking at its viewers with dad-like self-satisfaction.
Nevertheless, the folks on Cooking on High seem lovely, fun and comfortably buzzed, especially Ngaio Bealum, the show’s resident deliverer of pot factoids and former co-host of the online series Cannabis Planet. However, unlike that show, a low-budget quasi-news program with cooking demonstrations and tips for marijuana cultivation, Cooking on High isn’t quite sure if it wants to be a competition or simply a show about getting the munchies.
By: Jake Nevins, The Guardian