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Marijuana & Munchies: Kogi BBQ Chef Talks About Smoking Out and Serving Up 'Haute' Stoner Cuisine

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Was Roy Choi high when he came up with the Kogi BBQ truck? Maybe. (Tom Andrews/LAist)

Was Roy Choi high when he came up with the Kogi BBQ truck? Maybe. (Tom Andrews/LAist)
If you've ever found yourself in a restaurant with a plate of something so fantastical in front of you that you couldn't help but wonder if the chef was high when he or she came up with it, well, they just may well have been.

In today's NY Times, the relationship between marijuana and dining out is explored from the perspective of the chefs who use marijuana to enhance their creativity, diners who seek out stoner fare, and the dishes that wind up satisfying the smokers--intentionally or not.

A couple of L.A. food icons are well-represented in the article, including Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of the meat-lover's mecca Animal, who we last saw this past weekend judging the Vendy Awards (how appropriate?) Their luxe take on Poutine is described in the NYT in detail enough to give the stone-cold sober a case of the munchies. Hailing the oxtail gravy and cheddar smothered french fries fodder for the "haute stoner food hall of fame," Dotolo acknowledges the powerful sensory appeal of food when the eater is high.

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Sampling Animal's Poutine at the Star Chefs event (Elise Thompson/LAist)
While Shook and Dotolo don't talk about their own pot smoking habits, one very popular L.A. chef does. KogiBBQ owner (and one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs) Roy Choi talks about the "feel good" side of marijuana paired with good eats, but doesn't believe he and the Kogi team are advocates of pot use. “It’s not like a campaign to make food out of hemp, but it is a culture. It’s a vibe we have,” he explains.But Choi also 'fesses up to toking during the workday to keep things going: “In the middle of a busy day, I’ll smoke,” he said. “Then I’ll go to the record store and hang out and clear my mind or pop into a matinee movie and then come back to the streets.” Choi believes doing so gives him a chance to take a break during his 17-hour workdays, and "keep[s] his creativity up."

It's not all that surprising that the trend-launching combination of Korean BBQ and taco truck staple fare was perhaps dreamed up by a stoner, and is most certainly enjoyed by stoners--and many, many others--who may flock to the trucks to have a dining experience that is less restrictive than a fancy, sit-down restaurant offers. It's likely the raison d'etre for the Munchie Machine truck, which launched, without irony, on 4/20. The munchie-case appeal of the KogiBBQ truck food is pretty undeniable--and maybe the stoner factor can account for last year's bizarre rant from the Kogi PR rep.