At the beginning of the month in West Hollywood, America’s first cannabis restaurant, Lowell Cafe, was preparing to open. Even for those not under the influence, there was a buzz in the air. Budtenders, chefs, and television correspondents bustled throughout the 6,000 square foot space. In an unprecedented move, a college student lit a strain of sativa while popping on Airpods and facing the books. To her left, an older family of three prepared to do the same with their indica, an amuse bouche ahead of vegan cauliflower nachos, a black bean burger, and Mexican chocolate sundae. At the center of this gathering was executive chef Andrea Drummer, who is a co-owner of the cafe alongside the organic cannabis collective Lowell Herb Co.
Amidst the excitement of opening eve, Drummer spoke with Vogue about her vision for the restaurant, evolution of cannabis culture, and her professional journey.
So chef, what stars aligned to have you here in this moment?
It really was that everything just aligned perfectly. It began when I was executive producing a project with Spotify, and it was called the Breaking Bread series. They would compile a group of characters to sit around a table and consume a four to six course [cannabis-infused] menu that I would prepare for them. I noticed that a lot of them were all industry guys, had very high tolerance and were avid consumers of cannabis. So they would come with their own product. One of my guests once came with these two giant bags of cannabis once and i found that to be a bit crude. I wanted to find a product that aligned with the brand that I was putting forth, so we found Lowell. It was just a match made in heaven: the branding, the product, their care for the product, their attention to detail. I completely fell in love with the brand and they were excited to be able to provide products for me for my dinners. So, a star was born and it was beautiful.
How long ago was that?
That was almost over four years ago! Shortly after, I was able to introduce products to Miguel and Wiz Khalifa, who has his own brand but still enjoys Lowell’s product, Ty Dolla $ign, Wale, Mike T. These were some of the guests that attended that Spotify Breaking Bread series. Shortly therein after [Lowell partner] Sean Black came to me, and he said, “I think we should do something with this, something broader,” and I said okay, sure. Part of the process was lobbying the city of West Hollywood to allow for a consumption license, and once we did that and they okayed it, then we had to submit an application.
What was the application for specifically and how was the process?
The application was just cannabis consumption in a public space. After the lobbying, we had to submit an application, along with many other applicants, and wait [laughs]. This was about three and a half years ago. It took that long because this specific license is the first of its kind, and was happening in the midst of laws changing and evolving.
What was your experience throughout the process as a black female chef in a historical racially criminalized industry?
I think that I’ve always been rather bold and not deterred by perception or what should be an obstacle. You know that these things exist, you know that both the cannabis and culinary industry lack black and brown faces in leadership positions. But once I believed in what I was doing I just moved forward in that.
How do you think Lowell’s will impact the cannabis community and its West Hollywood neighbors?
Well, first I think West Hollywood has been an amazing partner in being progressive in this movement and allowing for on-site consumption and giving us this opportunity to in fact change the perception. A great part of my work has been the educational component, educating consumers and nay-sayers and doubters, and people who still have the misconception that cannabis is a bad thing. So that education will have to continue, and we’ll continue to talk to our community partners and our neighbors and hopefully, they’ll become comfortable and understand we’re not going to be spilling out of the building. I’m sure we had some of the same issues when we were dealing with alcohol prohibition, so it’s a new thing and we have to get comfortable with it because this is now.
How has the concept of this cannabis cafe evolved over time?
Well, we started with a farm-to-table concept and that included some of your traditional comfort foods. I’m from south Florida so you’ll see some of those influences. I was also trained at Le Cordon Bleu, so you’ll also see some of those influences. None of the food [at Lowell’s] is infused. We’re unable to legally infuse as of right now, but we do pair a lot of the menu items with specific strains that we carry in house.
What are some of your favorite dishes at the moment?
One of the dishes that’s really popular is our brownie and chocolate mousse sundae. The brownie is spicy, so it has a little heat to it, and the chocolate mousse is really rich and decadent. It also has caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream, marshmallow and brûlèed banana.
What does your day-to-day operations look like as the executive chef of Lowell’s?
I do a lot of engagement. I have an amazing team, so that I can be here talking to you while they’re prepping for service, so it’s phenomenal. Right now there’s a set menu but I get to create and build on the menu, we’ll introduce a brunch menu soon and we’ll be doing breakfast Monday through Friday. We’ll add some larger plates as well, so I get to create these ideas and it’s a first of it’s kind so I can be free in that. And then I also do pairings day-to-day, so I’m working with some in house drinks and I'll pair them with specific dishes. We have Honey Six, I’m working on pairings with those and we have an infused root-beer, so we get to play around.
In addition to being an accomplished chef, you are also a cookbook author and speaker. What’s next for Andrea Drummer?
I’m looking forward to doing a Lowell cafe cookbook in the future, and I’d like to do more speaking and advocacy. I’d love to do a show, a traveling show of some sort. Perhaps a traveling and cannabis show, both in the states that have legalization and others that don’t, and speak to some of the politicians or powers-at-be and talk about what they are anticipating and then get into the culinary history and some of the beliefs in these states about cannabis and the perceptions there. [The show could] culminate in a dinner, where we could either pair with cannabis or suggest pairings for future legalization.
Originally Appeared on Vogue