Beyond pot brownies: Meet the Amsterdam chefs taking haute cuisine so much higher
The ingredients are locally sourced, brilliantly presented and the diners get as high as kites
by Brent Bambury
High Cuisine is a gourmet cooking show that sets itself apart with its ingredients: drugs.
In each episode chef Anthony Joseph and chef and co-host Noah Tucker combine specialized, quality foodstuffs with carefully sourced, psychoactive organic products and serve the spectacular result to guests.
The diners are first delighted by the food, and then they're really buzzed. They're high, but still in control.
"We want to make sure that you're not blasted out of your mind," Joseph said on Day 6.
And they're not just cooking with weed.
Joseph and Tucker list some of the mind-bending substances they work into their gourmet creations.
"Mushrooms, truffles," Tucker said. (These, of course, are the varieties that produce psilocybin.)
"Kanna, Syrian rue, betel nut, Mexican tarragon," said Joseph.
"Blue lotus, morning glory," he added.
That's right, the same morning glories your grandmother grows. Did you know their seeds can get you as high as a kite?
"Don't take too many, I'll tell you that," Joseph warned.
Specialized producers and quality ingredients
High Cuisine is made in Holland where Joseph and Tucker have worked for a decade. The show benefits from that country's liberal drug laws.
But it's much more than a stoner goof-off. There's a lot of knowledge packed in to a half hour episode.
The show displays the obvious culinary skills of Tucker and Joseph, who are accomplished veterans of Michelin-starred kitchens. They effortlessly produce such fare as a mackerel escabeche and travel through Holland soaking in the detail of local cuisine, meeting farmers, hunters and fishermen.
They're equally respectful of the people who produce the stimulants.
"We use the best in the field," Joseph said. "They're very nerdy, very intelligent people."
Tucker compares the magic truffle and sativa farmers they meet to other producers in the food industry.
"This is what they do for a living. This is what they're hyper-focused on," he said. "That's how it goes, I think, for any produce that a chef would use."
All of it comes together — fish, game, vegetables and drugs — in the dishes they create and serve to select diners at the conclusion of the episode: for example, roasted beets with blood orange and a betel nut and hazelnut dressing, or North Sea crab with yogurt sauce, crispy seaweed and a cannabis reduction.
"We get to experiment," Tucker said. "I mean at the end of the day, as a chef, that's how I approach it. And that's how this whole concept is approached — by two chefs stepping up to the table."
The opening sequence of each episode includes a quote from Tucker: "Hi. My name is Noah. I love to cook and I love to get high."
He's not lying. Tucker sparks up a joint as the pair heads out for market shopping, on a walk along a pier, and in their test kitchen as they're putting it all together. That's not surprising given the mandate of the show.
But Joseph doesn't smoke at all. He doesn't do drugs.
"I do ingest what we serve but I don't ingest a full meal," he said. "I have to be able to differentiate the tastes and textures on so forth because they all have different flavour profiles."
As long as it's from the earth and they're natural, I'm game.- Noah Tucker, chef and host of High Cuisine
In a scene on the show, Joseph sniffs a giant bouquet of sativa and evaluates the product.
"The one I was smelling smelled like it was lemony, melon-y," he said. He's thinking of how it could be used in a dish.
"It's like anything in regards to food, as long as you have a palate and you have a good nose for it."
Together Joseph and Tucker try to match the stimulant ingredient to the taste experience.
"The advantage is that I partake in a lot of recreational substances, right?," said Tucker. "As long as it's from the earth and they're natural, I'm game."
Then they solve the problem of how the sensual spike from the drug fits in the arc of the meal.
"What's that extra little bump that this ingredient gives? OK, now where does this belong in the tasting," Tucker said.
Diners leave happy
Joseph and Tucker aren't aiming to make their diners hallucinate or trip.
"We want you to have a nice dream when this is over," Tucker tells his guests before dinner is served. Some seem slightly apprehensive about what they're in for.
"And do you already feel anything?" one guest asks, giggling.
They relax as the dinner progresses and the drugs kick in.
"This is about microdosing," Tucker said. "This is, you know, control is an illusion, but this is a controlled evening."
"Actually, it was more than I had expected," a guest tells the camera, and it's not clear if he's talking about the food or the high.
"I'm as high as a helicopter," another admits happily.
Joseph says he's satisfied with the way the High Cuisine experience connects.
"It's not for everybody," he said. "If this is something that you do within your lifestyle, brilliant. We really want you to try this and we really want you to do this."
"Because, you know, people are looking for alternatives in their life, regardless of what it is."
To hear the full interview with Noah Tucker and Tony Joseph, download our podcast or click 'Listen' at the top of this page.