“Hawaii” Mike Salman and his wife, Stephanie, curates private cannabis-infused supper clubs. They created Chef For Higher with the intention of re-introducing our true relationship with the cannabis plant. Through thoughtfully crafted menus and communal courses, Chef for Higher’s dinner experience is just as culinarily-centered as it is focused around community. As Mike says, “We’re not building this for your cannabis industry, we’re building this for our culture.”
While this is Chef For Higher’s 43rd straight month in business, “Hawaii” Mike Salman never imagined — or intended — for the unique gastronomic adventure to expand further than his dining room table.
As Stephanie and Mike Salman began infusing recipes from restaurants they loved, they started doing small Sunday dinner parties with their friends, to bring great food and like-minded individuals together. After the first few, the Salmans’ cannabis-infused dinners were in high demand.
“My whole life has been around cannabis, food, and music. Everybody's kind of known me for having weed, and those that know me well know I cook,” Mike said. “And when people came through, they were like, ‘Yo, I didn't know you could cook. I didn't know you could infuse food. And I didn't know all these people and I kind of like them. Can we do this again?’”
While the Salmans’ initial idea was to host dinner parties to introduce the THC/CBD gummies they had been making, they let go of that plan, and instead, prioritized the community’s wishes.
“They told us they wanted cooking essentials and that’s what we should infuse. That’s how we started infusing our honey, our extra virgin olive oil, and our coconut oil,” Salman said. “If I hadn’t listened to the community, we would just be a brand. We wouldn't be a movement.”
“Hawaii” Mike considers himself a cannabis advocate before being a chef. His inspiration to fully bake Chef for Higher came from his childhood memories of sleeping in his dad’s bass drum while his father’s band practiced, seeing the jam sessions quickly turn into get-togethers.
“All of a sudden there would be more people, parents and kids, and there's dancing and food and drinking and smoking,” Salman said. “They’re strangers, but everybody was having a great time.”
As Chef For Higher’s mission became to “normalize the use of cannabinoids through everyday essentials,” the Salmans realized they were doing this for more than just self-medicating purposes.
“I started to understand the history of the plant and started to figure out that cannabis is the greatest common denominator on the planet,” “Hawaii” Mike said. “I don't know anything else that we share with strangers that we put on our lips in this way. There's nothing else that brings people together on this planet more than cannabis.”
Salman’s fascination with the communal aspect to the plant had given Chef For Higher a new drive. “This became less about cannabis and us creating a brand, and more about the natural aspects of our communal nature as human beings,” he said.
While Salman believes food is the glue in communal celebration, he also believes cannabis is “the lubricant for our engine.”
“Name another plant that has coexisted with us, that has traveled with us and has grown, developed, and flourished in locations and climates that it's not supposed to grow in. Why is that? Because it's a healing plant that goes into the soil and heals the soil,” Salman said.
“I'm definitely not the first person cooking, nor anyone in this ‘pioneering stage’ of cannabis-infused foods,” Salman said. “This is just us getting us back in touch with what we should be doing, and what we’ve been doing for thousands of years.”
“Hawaii” Mike adds, “You can't tell me that the Chinese, who were the ones that broke this plant down, weren't cooking with it. You can't tell me the kings, the pharaohs, and the queens that have been using this plant haven’t been eating it and participating with it.”
While Chef For Higher’s supper club membership is growing, through its pillars of “community, food, and culture,” Salman says the vision of Chef For Higher “isn’t as tied to cannabis as everyone thinks."
"This is really about our lifestyle and sharing that with people.”
“We don't just cook food. This is so much more than us just saying, ‘Hey, we infuse food, come through.’ This is communal, this is a community. We're a family.”
For the novice all the way up to the expert, Salman ensures everybody has a good time through Chef For Higher's five-course-plus-cocktail experience. This is achieved through responsible consumption through proper dosing™, as well as Chef For Higher acting as your guru through the dinner experience.
“It's very guided to quell the anticipation and answer everybody's concerns that guests may have,” “Hawaii” Mike said. “We all eat at the same time; we'll usually sit first-time flyers with frequent flyers; and through the courses, we take a break, we hang out, we walk around and people introduce themselves.”
When Salman creates the menus, he is not only thinking about taste profiles, but also about how and what he would like to say with this meal.
“I'm sitting at the table so that when I ideate what I want, I go in reverse from that experience as a table, all the way back to the kitchen so that we ensure that whatever came out of our head, that intention goes all the way to the utensil that the guest is using,” Salman said. “All of that matters.”
Chef for Higher prides themselves on never duplicating a menu. “That helps us show that we can balance different flavor profiles, terpenes, effects, and everything else that you're going to get, to create a consistent but unique experience for our guests.”
Even with the continual growth of the cannabis space, “Hawaii” Mike will continue to “fly private,” and does not see a world where guests can just walk into their spot.
“That’s just not who we are. There's going to be a ton of people that are going to want to chase the dollar, but there's also the craft, there’s also the artisanal and seasonal. There's so many different layers to it and for us, any money is a result. Not the goal,” Salman said.
“I don't care where we're at. We're always going to be a destination. I don't care if we’re right next door to you. It's going to be an experience. It’s always going to be something more than you just eating our food.”