Chef Manny Mendoza on Bringing Cannabis and Community Together

Chef Manny Mendoza on Bringing Cannabis and Community Together

At Chef Manny Mendoza’s Herbal Notes, education is on the menu…along with shatter-crisp buttermilk curry fried chicken, pupusas califas, and an earthy chocolate mole de platano strewn with lavender buds and sesame brittle.

People did not just leave full, they left with a new comprehension of food and cannabis as medicine.

With his series of infused pop-up dinner parties, Mendoza expects to give diners the resources they need to start healing themselves through an interactive conversation around needs and resources. For him, the best place to have that discussion is about a dinner table.

“Food is medicine, cannabis is medicine, both should come together and be used in a way where it’s a lifestyle change. Not a diet, not a fad or trend; it’s a holistic lifestyle change for general wellness. ”

At a recent dinner series in Chicago, diners wandered through a hidden alleyway to locate a secluded backyard full of fairy lights and foliage. The tables were decorated with cacti, candles, and serapes; the sounds of a burbling waterfall mingled with the DJ mixing the perfect house-party playlist.

Herbal Notes’ mixology partner for the evening, Big Mich, greeted diners with a “Medicated Michelada” that included a rim of CBD-infused chile sal, aerosolized bitters, essential oils, and CBD tincture.

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Utilizing extracts for exact dosing, Chef Mendoza introduced a 20mg CBD:5mg THC dinner with dishes aimed to elevate the conversation surrounding cannabis. After seven courses and plenty of rousing conversation around the dinner table, people didn’t just leave full, they left with a new comprehension of food and cannabis as medicine.

Lil Mano from the 2600 Block

Mendoza was raised in a single-parent home in Pilsen, a lively Latinx neighborhood in the lower west side of Chicago. “My mom worked really late, so somebody had to cook. That’s how I began cooking,” he says. He began playing with components, figuring out how to satisfy his older brother and sister with his first kitchen experiments.

“When I’m referring to cannabis, it’s always people focused. It is always community focused.”

Manny Mendoza, Cannabis Chef

While he was a creative kid, sometimes his wild streak got the best of him. He struggled in school until he found Gallery 37, a city-funded arts program that offered free culinary arts training to teens.

He credits that early intervention not just for guiding him on a path toward the Culinary Institute of America, but for setting the intentions of his career. After viewing gang violence, poverty, and suicide blight his community firsthand, he resolved to use cannabis as a tool to cure the very same populations which have been affected by criminalization.

“The drug war was a giant, multibillion-dollar divestment away from communities,” he explains. “That’therefore, when I’m talking about cannabis, it’s always people concentrated. It’s constantly community focused. ”

Mendoza is well aware of the barriers those on the South and West sides of Chicago face when becoming certified for Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program. There’s a lack of education around the access to the card, the purchase price of application, and legitimate fears around fingerprinting fueled by racial profiling, hyper-surveillance, and police misconduct that they experience in their day-to-day lives.

As a cannabis advocate, Mendoza calls on the government to use tax revenue to revitalize communities ravaged by the mass incarceration of the drug war. He wishes to see that the use of workshops and job fairs especially for those previously incarcerated on drug crimes.

Published at Tue, 24 Jul 2018 20:43:05 +0000

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