A popular San Francisco stonepot chef is looking to the East Bay to reimagine getting stoned on pot. Namu Gaji and Namu Stonepot chef Dennis Lee, who also served as founding chef at S.F.’s Magnolia Gastropub and Smokestack, was recently named Edibles Director at Oakland’s Sublime Canna, in a notable hire in the Bay Area cannabis edibles scene.
“You can expect that we’re going to take some of the old standards and apply what we would consider to be kind of an artisan and high-end experience in terms of flavor and quality,” Sublime Canna CEO Alex Fang told Nosh, describing the brand’s new vision for artisan edibles with Lee on board. “You’re going to be getting some form factors that do not exist in the industry yet.”
For those who partake, you might know Sublime Canna better by its previous name Sublime Concentrates, a cannabis oil manufacturer headquartered in Oakland’s “green zone.” They’re known for their vape oil cartridges and pre-rolled joints called Fuzzies that are infused with potent wax and rolled in kief. Those smokables can still be found on Bay Area dispensary shelves, but the company hopes to make a new name for itself with chef Lee’s specially formulated menu of craft edibles.
Lee received the Rising Star Chef Award from San Francisco magazine in 2012 for his Korean and Asian-California fusion creations at Namu Gaji. He’s still involved with both restaurants, but he is also switching his skill set from Namu Gaji to ganja, to become the biggest-name chef to be tapped so far by the local cannabis industry.
“What’s important to me is just bringing my experience with ingredients and cuisine, manipulating flavors and textures, and applying that to a more broadly appealing or universally appealing edible product,” Lee said of his new cannabis-infused creations.
Lee’s offerings will be over-the-counter edible products — not the gourmet cannabis dinners that you might read about in the press, but are invariably held underground and not open to the public. Restaurants cannot legally serve items infused with THC under current California cannabis regulations.
Lee has been experimenting after hours to perfect deep-fried marijuana leaves, THC-infused olive oils and hand-crafted recipes to help him better understand cooking with cannabis. These items won’t be among the first batches of Sublime Canna edibles coming soon to Northern California dispensaries, but there are some clues what those will be.
“To start out, we’ll focus on confections,” Lee told Nosh. “We’re really excited to be working with some partners who have a long history of candy making.”
Lee was tight-lipped about the identity of these confection partners. But Fang provided a few hints, not long after Sublime Canna snagged $6.2 million in venture capital investment to sell the soon-to-be-released treats.
“Within the next few months, we’ll be releasing our first mint,” Fang said. “But the spin we take on the mint is one that hasn’t been done yet.”
“It’s going to in many ways mimic some of the most favorite and classic-style mints that exist in the confection industry,” he said. “But it’s going to apply a methodology that hasn’t been used in the cannabis industry yet.”
This cannabis food critic can tell you from first-hand experience that the quality of an oil extract will make or break an edible. Sublime Canna is well-respected in the extracted oil sector, having won more than a half-dozen Hempcon awards for its various blends. Some of its infused oils provide brain-blasting highs, others are much mellower blends that deliver low-dose, precisely targeted effects.
“Most people’s first-time experience with edibles is relatively traumatic, just because of the length of the high,” Chef Lee said. “As a patient myself, I enjoy very, very low doses to help me relax and manage my stress and anxiety.”
Lee brings his personal experience into the mix when formulating infused recipes to create a specific, therapeutic effect.
“In the restaurant industry, particularly in kitchen life where a lot of people often rely on other drugs or alcohol to help unwind after work, cannabis is just a much healthier option,” he says.
Lee considers many currently available over-the-counter edibles to be below-average from a food perspective, and he hopes the new line of Sublime Canna edibles will change that. But beyond the launch of its mints, Lee and Sublime Canna’s offerings of infused gourmet foodstuffs remain a well-kept secret.
“Right now contractually, we’re going to stay mum about the new products that we have,” Fang said. “But every two months we’re going to have some really cool stuff coming out.”
So for now, marijuana edible foodies seeking a more elevated high will have to play the waiting game to see what a top Bay Area chef is cooking up to get us baked.