It’s the highest form of competition on Viceland’s ‘Bong Appetit: Cook Off’


‘Bong Appetit: Cook Off’ – Smoking out the competition

Vanessa Lavorato

The visuals are something straight out of food porn.

Portabellos sauteeing in a pan. Italian sausages roasting on a grill. Red sauce simmering over a low flame.

All look mouth-watering on screen and all go into dishes that have one common ingredient – cannabis.

In “Bong Appetit: Cook Off,” airing its third season Tuesdays on Viceland, the intoxicating weed takes center state as three contestants face off in a series of cooking challenges, preparing cannabis-infused meals for judges Vanessa Lavorato, a cannabis confectioner; chef/restaurateur Miguel Trinidad and rapper/marijuana entrepreneur B-Real, who is also the show’s host.

But unlike the earthy pot brownies some may remember from their younger days, these are real, gourmet-quality meals prepared by accomplished chefs who use the many varietals of cannabis like they would any other herb to complement the other flavors in their creations.

As the meals are being prepared, the judges are actually partaking in marijuana in its smoked form, passing around a pre-meal joint or pipe before dining. That these folks can actually speak coherently to a camera afterward is amazing.

“(The smoking) relaxes me and it makes me forget that we’re making a television show and it becomes like a hangout,” Lavorato explains. “Like, ‘Oh, we’re watching these really talented chefs cook this incredible food and we’re gonna eat it.’ ”

“I mean, of course there’s the added element of like, ‘OK, how much did I eat?’ ” she adds with a laugh, “because it takes a while to have effect … but I prepped. I smoked a lot before we were filming because we shot a pilot. From the pilot, I realized I needed to increase my tolerance. … It’s California (cannabis), it’s really potent … and so you have to be ready. So it took about a month.”

Last week’s episode saw former “The Sopranos” player Joe Gannascoli, who was a chef before he turned to acting, cooking with pot for the first time in an Italian cooking competition, which Lavorato recalls with a laugh.

“It was so much fun,” she says. “I’m Italian American so obviously that’s the food that my grandparents would make, so to make it with cannabis … and then to have Joe, just made a lot of sense.”

“When I saw him on the roster for like who was going to be competing, I was like, ‘Ah, this is going to be such a cool episode,’ because he’s such a character,” she continues. “… I mean, very talented chef, funny – we had a lot of fun having him on the show.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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