Liv Vasquez is on a mission to redefine stoner culture through food.
The chef—who started culinary school at 16 and owned two restaurants in New York by 22—makes a living catering high-end soirees and pop-ups which consist solely of cannabis-infused dishes. She's been flown to Napa Valley, Los Angeles and New York for events that range from weed-and-wine pairings to cannabis fashion shows.
She says most everyone who consumes pot has had a "bad brownie experience." Her mission is to cook meals so transcendent that diners dissociate edibles with anxiety and paranoia. She'd also like to get rid of the idea that stoners are "people hanging out in basements and cloud-filled rooms."
Vasquez, who started smoking pot for pain relief after getting in a car accident at age 19, initially moved to Portland to hone her craft cocktail-making skills and finish writing a book. But when recreational cannabis was legalized in 2014, Vasquez says she "dropped everything" to start working at a dispensary.
"I just wanted to completely submerge myself into the culture and the community," she says.
Over the course of three years, Vasquez went to what she dubs "cannabis college," which included working with dispensaries, doctors and growers to learn how to expertly dose edibles for a range of age groups, tolerance levels and ailments.
In November 2017, she hosted her first pop-up on a rooftop succulent garden in L.A. Now, she caters about one event a month, in addition to hosting pop-ups and writing recipes for cannabis companies.
Vasquez's clientele ranges from wedding groups and cannabis conference-goers to friends who just want to party. Menus and dosages vary according to the event—sometimes featuring only terpenes (the essential oils in cannabis) and CBD, other times ending with a 5-to-10 mg microdose of THC. Ultimately, Vasquez says multigenerational events are her favorite to cater.
"I want to have those pre-wedding parties where your mom and your cousin smoked a joint together and now they are bonded forever," she says. "Those experiences create normalization."
Most of Vasquez's meals are plant-based and vegan—because, she says, "if it grows together, it goes together"—and the cannabis infusions she uses are diverse. Sometimes she'll make salad dressings with CBD-infused oils, other times she'll put terpene salt around the rim of a drink or crack fresh-dried flower on top of a plate.
"I like to individually microdose each dish, which is a lot of work," she says. "But it guarantees that the dose isn't getting mixed in the batch and I'm losing it. It's really education through food—so people get to taste, smell, eat, consume and feel the effect."
For her next event, a showroom in New York is flying her out to feed and educate stylists about cannabis.
"CBD is getting huge in New York," she says. "There's a lot of cannabis coming down the runway. A lot of higher-end designers doing cannabis-leaf print gowns and things like that."
Of course, she can't fly with knives or weed, so she has to source everything onsite while traveling—an inconvenience she hopes will be short-lived as cannabis becomes more mainstream.
"Every time I feed people, I have people come up to me saying, 'I didn't know edibles could be like that. I didn't know the experience could be like that, and I feel great,'" Vasquez says. "Then maybe you go back to Ohio or Chicago and tell your friends and you all vote for [legalization] because you're like, 'It's not that bad. It's not that seedy. I see the benefits of it in Portland.' It's a domino effect."