I never met Resident Chef Mike Delao of TV’s Cannabis Planet but I consider myself a fairly decent judge of character. Years of being left alone in a car in the middle of the Bronx for hours on end during my prepubescent years, I acquired the skills necessary to dissect a person purely by their physical qualities. Over the past 4 years of viewing Chef Mike on LA’S KJLA 57 he always came across as a jocular fellow permanently bearing a content smile that suggests a soul doing exactly what he was created for. This exuded blissful aura made Chef an obvious target for one of my long emails detailing my virtual anonymity within the cannabis scene along with my strong desire to enter said scene by conducting interviews with those active in the movement. Was I really expecting a reply? Perhaps. I was pretty blown away however by an invitation to a taping of his cooking segments. Pretty blown away morphed into unrelenting above board hospitality when I arrived.
I rang the door bell. Introductions, Exchanges of friendly expressions, handshakes, smiles, hash pipe. I barely made it through the living room and into the kitchen before I was greeted with a pipe packed with chunks of hash. I tried to refuse, I’m not always the most secure soul surrounded by strangers while indulging in the altering of consciousness. Nobody needs to see me start hacking up undigested remnants of past childhood dares while interrupting every take as I do my best to aim my expelled saliva so that it doesn’t land faultlessly within someone‘s eyebrow, just light enough not to be noticed by the victim but heavy enough to slowly drip onto a cheek. All this while I cling to life by relying on my inhaler to open up my lungs. This is usually about where my glasses fall off and as I bend to get them I take out grandma‘s walker. Of course she lands on her surgically repaired hip. Ah, but who was I kidding, thoughts of free THC soon replaced paranoia. Four hits. “Keep hitting that, I’ll refill it when it’s done.” Heh? Who said that, Chef is was over there. Turn head to the right. Whoa who’s this dude? I don’t know but I like him. He filled the hash pipe. Wave high, say thank you but I’m good for now. No need to tempt self fulfilling prophecy.
Finally, now that all pleasantries and tokes had been exchanged it was time to observe and talk. Chef chopped and blended as he described his Medicated Living Raw Sushi Roll ( a blended mix of sesame seeds and other goodies into a pâté accompanied by vegetables all rolled into a sushi roll) and the many reasons he started to combine his love of food and grass. There was his mom, a diabetic who couldn’t enjoy any of the medicated edibles sold in collectives because of the high sugar content, his grandmother who suffered from kidney failure, along with an ex girlfriend who had major physical problems and became addicted to pills. Later as he became a public figure the strong desire to be a role model for the cannabis community emerged.
As for his personal story, before Chef started cooking he was miserable dealing with the daily circumstances of good paying 9-5 jobs that forced him to treat people likes business decision. He drank a good deal to wash away the disappointment of unfulfilled days. Over indulgence in any aspect is generally not a good thing, and the end result of all this liquoring up was Chef becoming so heavy he had trouble standing for extended periods of time . He went to the doctor for help and he was treated with the standard practice of western medicine; pills . It was a combination of all these factors that led him to cook with cannabis, medicated glycerin, and agave nectar. Eventually he began growing his own medicine and making edibles for the people who can’t handle what the collectives are selling or afford retail prices. “If you are going to heal yourself it is expensive plus what you buy doesn’t compare to growing your own strains.” He smiles and explains how much fresher home grown is, how all the trichomes are intact and the bud is handled a lot less. “Since I’ve been growing I have been able to give away medicine to cancer patients and I understand why Jack (Herer) was always screaming about how cheap it is. It makes me mad. I totally get it and understand that patients are getting ripped off all over.” Chef spent 7 years working at collectives and feels he wasted a lot of cash over that time.
Since he started cooking at Good To Go a vegetarian, vegan, living, and raw food eatery in Huntington Beach, Chef has turned his own eating habits around admitting “ I’d rather eat healthy go to the gym drinking medicated smoothies and do more and more and feel great. This kind of food gives your body the energy to fight stress. When you eat bad then all your energy goes to digestion.” Chef embraces being a responsible public figure and uses that status to promote healthy living . As a TV chef Mike is abundantly aware of his influence on those who enjoy making what they see on their favorite cooking shows and points out “ I want to cook like this so people eat healthier or else why do this?” He continues with a preachers fervor that almost had me shelling out $10 towards his causes. “It’s my obligation to get away from sweets and all that. We can cure people, we can heal them with just food and cannabis that we grow ourselves. If I had a collective now I would have a whole room just to give away.”
Clearly his decision to leave his past life and careers behind and slide head first into gastronomy was something he doesn’t regret. “Going to cooking school was the best decision I ever made.” He credits the discipline, the instant gratification, the love of being a leader, and the memories of cooking with his grandmother as a kid as factors that keep his culinary passions alive.
The mention of Jack Herer and giving medicine away prompted me to ask Chef how he feels politically the cannabis movement is going. “ I don’t think cannabis will ever be legal in this country. It can cure too many things. I think hemp is more important to legalize in this country. We would make way more than cannabis ever could. You know how rich this country could be? We could take over the ethanol trade in a heart beat. We could process so much of it and never have to worry about gas or oil again. We could feed all the hungry.” The only hole in his theory that I could find pertained to worrying about what would happen to the oil and plastics industries that would inescapably suffer. “ I think Jack (Herer) had it right. Hemp will be legal because there is money involved. More than marijuana could ever make.” He points out the ever furthering lack of positive world opinion of the U.S. and that selling pot to the rest of the planet would only aid our already low global popularity. “ Hemp however, it is his sincere belief, would make us look like heroes instead. “With hemp we would have a great paper industry and all the plants would help the ozone. We could look like humanitarians.” I have to agree that with America fighting 2 wars and with at least some involvement in Libya not to mention our tens of thousands of troops stationed all over the globe, it would be pleasant to be looked upon by the humanity with a smile once again. Chef is quick to point out he is not against legalization, he just believes it may not be the panacea most cannabis crusaders find it to be.
Whether in practice or discussion inevitably politics turns to money. “This is my 8th year having my recommendation and my 6th year being deeply involved.” Chef’s uneasiness of the infusion of dollars into the cannabis community surfaces. “Why don’t we have parties where if you have cancer, AIDS, or can’t afford your meds you get in free. There should be free meds and music because it is all about them. That was the original plan.” He references Valerie Corral of San Francisco’s W.A.M.M. (Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana) and his mentor Steve Lawrence who preached patients first. “Steve always told me you know what we are doing? We are selling drugs to patients. Don’t think of it any differently. Steve encouraged free safety, medicine, and food to the community.” Chef recalls making sandwiches to give away. He smiles with pride, “you didn’t have to buy anything. If you are making $10,000 a day you better be giving away $500 a day. It boosts your standing in the community.”
There is only so much talk about money ruling almost every aspect of life and the inevitable lack of focus it brings towards originally indented goals I can take so let me end this piece by telling how genuinely true Chefs Mike’s Medicated Living Raw Sushi Roll held to the taste of real tuna sushi. It proved to be as stupendously enriched with gratification and hidden fire as Chef Mike Delao, a real champion of cannabis patient rights and true believer in giving back. It also made my head cheery and my back pain a distant nuisance. Check your local listings to catch Chef Mike on Cannabis Planet or go to the website http://www.cannabisplanet.tv/ to view past episodes. You can also catch his columns in High Times at http://hightimes.com/housemusicchef1/