News you can use: The Herb and Spices.

There’s more than one kind of smoke coming from that kitchen. Not herbs but THE herb.

Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture

Photo illustration by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

By KIM SEVERSON
Published: May 18, 2010

EVEN preschool teachers unwind with a round of drinks now and then. But in professional kitchens, where the hours are long, the pace intense and the goal is to deliver pleasure, the need to blow off steam has long involved substances that are mind-altering and, often enough, illegal.

“Everybody smokes dope after work,” said Anthony Bourdain, the author and chef who made his name chronicling drugs and debauchery in professional kitchens. “People you would never imagine.”

So while it should not come as a surprise that some chefs get high, it’s less often noted that drug use in the kitchen can change the experience in the dining room.

In the 1980s, cocaine helped fuel the frenetic open kitchens and boisterous dining rooms that were the incubators of celebrity chef culture. Today, a small but influential band of cooks says both their chin-dripping, carbohydrate-heavy food and the accessible, feel-good mood in their dining rooms are influenced by the kind of herb that can get people arrested.

Joanne Weir, a San Francisco cooking teacher and television personality who went to Woodstock at age 15, said that there is a difference between this period in stoner cuisine and the cooking of the hippie movement. “It’s people’s pursuit of the best ingredients,” she said.

Chefs who smoke say that includes the marijuana itself.

The sensibility extends to the latest wave of coffee culture. Coffee geeks are as infatuated with their Pacas varietal beans from Central America as pot users are with their sticky sinsemilla from Humboldt County in California.

Duane Sorenson, the founder of the coffee roaster Stumptown, said that fat buds of marijuana often end up in the tip jar at his shops.

“It goes hand in hand with a cup of coffee,” he said. “It’s called wake and bake. Grab a cup of Joe and get on with it.”

Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

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