'Creating a Cuisine Out of Smoke' ...and It's Not Barbeque

First clue: The bong on the front page of the Dining Section: "Call it haute stoner cuisine."

Wednesday's lead Dining section is a long strange story by Kim Severson: "Creating a Cuisine Out of Smoke." Alternative barbeque tips? Nope. Here's the text box: "Marijuana, some chefs say, helps them craft 'feel good' dishes and restaurants." The photo illustration by Tony Cenicola that dominates the top half (see image below) features a set of kitchen utensils including a bong.

Even preschool teachers unwind with a round of drinks now and then. But in professional kitchens, where the hours are long, the pace intense and the goal is to deliver pleasure, the need to blow off steam has long involved substances that are mind-altering and, often enough, illegal.

"Everybody smokes dope after work," said Anthony Bourdain, the author and chef who made his name chronicling drugs and debauchery in professional kitchens. "People you would never imagine."

So while it should not come as a surprise that some chefs get high, it's less often noted that drug use in the kitchen can change the experience in the dining room.

In the 1980s, cocaine helped fuel the frenetic open kitchens and boisterous dining rooms that were the incubators of celebrity chef culture. Today, a small but influential band of cooks says both their chin-dripping, carbohydrate-heavy food and the accessible, feel-good mood in their dining rooms are influenced by the kind of herb that can get people arrested.

Call it haute stoner cuisine.

For readers, um, craving more, Severson obliged:

If you are still skeptical, check out a Web-based show called "Munchies" (www.vbs.tv/watch/munchies), which follows chefs as they party and eat late into the night, then head back to their kitchens to cook. Billows of smoke and doobie references abound. Although the show can be cagey about who is doing the smoking, featured chefs have included the men from Animal, Mr. Chang and the Franks - Mr. Falcinelli and Mr. Castronovo.

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