Free Range Kings (FRK): What inspired you to write and publish the book High Cookery?
Gilad: Two of my greatest loves are cooking and writing. I authored two cookbooks in Israel more than a decade ago and got the itch to do another fun cooking project. The idea behind High Cookery was born, like many creations, when I was sharing a joint with a friend, WhyTai, in my backyard.
FRK: What sparked your interest and passion for cooking with cannabis?
Gilad: Cannabis, for me, is a relatively recent life addition. I first started consuming cannabis roughly six years ago. I learned that cannabis is an amazing transformative agent in my life and decided to explore it more thoroughly. As cooking is a major activity for me, combining this newfound medicine with my most loved activity was a no-brainer.
FRK: Where are you located, and have the laws in your state posed any challenges to cooking with cannabis and sharing with others?
Gilad: A simple question I’ll admit; however, the answer is a tad complicated. In recent years, my family adapted a nomadic lifestyle. During the last two years, I have lived in six countries and three continents. Currently, I live in Israel but when I authored and produced High Cookery I lived, for the most part, in California. In California, cannabis consumption has recently been legalized, both medicinally and recreationally. In Israel, cannabis consumption is currently only legal with a medical card, which is not easy to come by. However, while recreational use is still illegal, the penalty for doing so is virtually non-existent. I also feel the winds are very much shifting and there is public support to move past the medicinal level.
FRK: Where did you get your recipes? Did you conjure these up through trial and error, or were they influenced by other cooks and recipes?
Gilad: Lots of trial and error. My approach to cooking is very much Mediterranean, and I really enjoyed the fusion between “Americana” and the Mediterranean kitchen.
FRK: What is your favorite cannabis-infused dish to cook?
Gilad: It is not only hard to choose but also highly likely that by the time anyone reads this, I will have a different answer. For me, the most important element in cookery is novelty. Eating the same dish more than once starts getting boring real fast. I would definitely go with a savory dish, as I feel there is much more to explore in that arena.
FRK: Do you have any favorite appliances/tools and cannabis products to use for infused dishes?
Gilad: My only insistence is to source the right plant. I’m very much an ingredient snob and that relates to all aspects of cooking. Using the best oils, fresh and seasonal produce, local and organic ingredients makes a huge difference in a dish. Same goes with cannabis – I prefer knowing the grower and understanding his/her approach to the plant. It is like cooking with wine – the better the ingredient, the better the outcome.
FRK: What is your process in determining whether a recipe is ready for primetime? Do you have a consistent group of beta testers?
Gilad: That was definitely an enjoyable process. I’d gather 10-15 friends out in our backyard every so often and present each dish, talk about its inspiration, and record their feedback. Needless to say, I never had a hard time rounding up “volunteers.” The funny thing was that these tasting days taught me how varied responses can get. Some of the recipes received standing ovations by some and ‘neh’ responses by others.
FRK: The pictures in your book are amazing! Describe the creative process in determining the types of pictures that were included in the book.
Gilad: I decided early on that this book would place imagery at the center of the experience. I used the term ‘food pornography’ to describe what I wanted from the food stylist and photographer. This choice dictated that I use both high-end professionals and conduct more production days as, on average, we were able to shoot 8-10 recipes a day. I read a lot of cookbooks (it is my quirk) and my number one inspiration were Yotam Ottolenghi’s books.
FRK: Do you have a measure in your mind that determines whether or not your book is a success?
Gilad: Statistically speaking, publishing a book, any book, is an unwise financial decision. The vast majority of books do not cover their production and inventory costs. The risk with cookbooks is much higher as the production costs are much higher. I would require selling more than 7,000 copies just to cover my investment. With a ‘lifetime sales average’ of 3,000 units per cookbook, it is easy to see that a financial success goes against the odds. Nonetheless, my first two (Hebrew) cookbooks reached bestseller status and became successful (I sold a total of 32,000 books), so I am hoping whatever magic I was able to conjure then will repeat itself. At the end of the day, unless this is your career, I would advise to set very pragmatic expectations and understand the risk you are taking. High Cookery is the best book I was able to make. I am immensely proud of it; therefore, for me, it is already a raging success!
FRK: What are the three most important pieces of advice you have for those that want to try to make meals using cannabis at home?
Gilad: (1) Patience – the infusion process requires time and following instructions. New canna-cooks might not understand that when venturing into this space. (2) Responsibility – consuming cannabis through edibles can create a negative psycho-active experience. As the cook, be very diligent in how you measure potency and experiment with your dish before you give someone, what you perceive to be, a full dose. Take it from someone who has been there – it really sucks taking someone through a bad trip. Same goes for storage – mark your edibles clearly and store them safely to prevent kids or unsuspecting grown-ups eating it by mistake. I am pedantic in making sure that I always, always err on the side of safety. (3) Open up your creativity. Go beyond the cookies and the brownies. Cannabis can enrich so many dishes. Be open-minded and explore.
FRK: What adjustments have you made in your personal life during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Gilad: We have chosen to live in a distant rural community bordering a large forest, so most of my COVID-19 experience was outdoors. We decided that if we are to distance ourselves, might as well do it the ‘right’ way with nature surrounding us. My first two cookbooks, worth mentioning, are about outdoors cooking, so camping is very much a culinary experience for me as well.
FRK: Do you have a favorite dispensary and cannabis strain/product?
Gilad: I prefer Indica over Sativa but do not have a favorite strain. I think this is a result of my constant moving around. When I lived in California, I had a favorite dispensary (Airfield) and a strain (LA Confidential) but, honestly, I place a much bigger emphasis on ‘set and setting’. No matter what strain I use, if it is outdoors next to a campfire, it’ll work much better compared to at home in my living room.
FRK: What’s your go-to meal and restaurant when you get the munchies?
Gilad: I am an awful restaurant goer. It is rare that I will go to a restaurant and have no critical feedback to the various dishes (the same would go for my own cooking by the way). The best dish I’ve ever eaten while on the munchies was a mushroom Risotto with truffles in a California restaurant called “Alexander’s Steakhouse.” That was just… perfection.
FRK: What are your other passions outside of cooking?
Gilad: I am an avid traveler. Whether camping, backpacking, or hiking, nature is my safe place. I also very much enjoy writing stories. I hope that one day I will gather the courage to publish one of my stories.
FRK: What is next for you? Any big plans or goals?
Gilad: I am already working on another cookbook and have decided to translate my Hebrew books into English.
FRK: How can someone buy your book?
Gilad: Currently the book is available on the High Cookery website and on Amazon. Hopefully, as things move forward, I’ll be able to open more distribution channels. Since the book is independently published, many of the distributors are hesitant to engage with me and are waiting to see how the book succeeds.
FRK: Any final words for the Free Range Kings readers?
Gilad: Just enjoy it. Cooking is not only a fun creative activity; it is also a way to share love with your loved ones. For me, cooking is almost a spiritual activity. I know I am very much a food geek, but I would like to encourage you readers to try and approach cookery as a quasi-meditative practice. Treat your cutting board as a canvas, your ingredients as your paint, and your chef’s knife as your brush… whatever you paint can be satisfying for both your bellies and mind…
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