As a chef to the stars for the last 25 years, Aine McAteer has heard it all when it comes to “interesting demands.”
That is, she thought she had – until the wife of an undisclosed superstar requested her meals be infused with cannabis.
“In this world, I’m always dealing with interesting demands from people who can afford to have the best of everything,” says McAteer, a native of Ireland who has cooked (sans cannabis) for stars including Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, a handful of Eagles and at least one Beatle. “There’s always some new creative challenge I’m faced with.”
Enter cannabis cuisine, arguably one of McAteer’s greatest challenges yet – other than that time earlier in her career when she, a devoted vegetarian, had to create a super-meaty menu for a particularly carnivorous client on tour.
Despite being a lifelong fan of the hemp plant, McAteer never had much experience cooking with cannabis beyond the “odd pot brownie” in her younger years. Nonetheless, she found herself “embracing” the experience from the get-go.
“It was definitely a learning curve but... I’m all about health and healing and I’m very aware that for some people, [cannabis] is something that has huge medical [benefits],” she says. “I’m always willing to take on board anything that I feel will support that process for people.”
It didn’t take long for the thrill of cooking with cannabis to take hold for McAteer, who quickly got the hang of creating infused butters and oils and experimenting with different cannabis-friendly recipes.
“It became something I was very excited to work with as an ingredient,” says McAteer of cannabis. “I would make a lot of infused butters and oils and just integrated them into a lot of her dishes.
“She loved the infused honey I made when we were living in Hawaii, where they had a home. The plants did so well in that climate and our neighbours had honey, so I’d make these beautiful infused honeys.”
At the time, McAteer created an Instagram account full of her cannabis-friendly concoctions. She christened the account ‘Happy Food’, “because [my client’s] husband wasn’t a consumer, so I had to mark her food with a smiley face.”
Of course, McAteer “isn’t at liberty” to disclose the identities of these clients due to privacy reasons. After all, despite marijuana’s growing presence in mainstream America, its consumption remains stigmatized.
That said, she speculates that there will likely come a time – perhaps sooner than later – when her gradually expanding pool of herb-friendly clients will be more comfortable coming out of the cannabis closet.
“It’s changing now because cannabis is becoming a lot more mainstream ... it’s kind of moving into the fine dining arena, especially in places like California,” she says.
“I think that, as it becomes legalized and the stigma is removed and it becomes a [more common] ingredient for chefs, it will really elevate the whole world of cannabis cooking.”