As a graduate of the world-famous culinary school Le Cordon Bleu chef Melissa Parks is revolutionizing the edible industry by creating dishes worthy of top-notch Paris, New York City and London restaurants.
Melissa Parks just got back from a women’s cannabis conference in Los Angeles, and she is happily ensconced in her kitchen in Denver doing what she loves: cooking, experimenting and creating with cannabis recipes. And not just any recipes; it’s all gourmet here. She chops, dices, sizzles, and garnishes with a big smile on her face and a skip in her step-it’s clear sh is revolutionizing the world of edibles. “This is such an exciting time in this industry,” she says with a flip of her hair. But it’s time to talk about food now-another thing Melissa Parks does with contagious enthusiasm.
You went to the very prestigious Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts. How did you transition from gourmet restaurant chef into creating cannabis edibles?
My entry into cannabis was more about being in the right place at the right time than by design. As I settled into my life in Colorado, I knew my career as a chef had only just begun; I could see all the possibilities within this young, growing industry that were complimentary of all my experience and education. I had not considered a chef role in the cannabis industry when I initially moved to Colorado. In fact, I was unaware at that time as to what the plant possesses, what it could offer to so many individuals suffering from serious illnesses, and how chemistry & culinary arts could be utilized in this space. But working with cannabis, helping others, and connecting with food in a whole new manner was exactly what my culinary heart craved.
Did your training and background help you to separate yourself from others making edibles?
Yes, but experience isn’t just the best teacher; it’s the only teacher. As a result of the education I received at both Johnson & Wales and Le Cordon Bleu, I began to set into place the stepping-stones for my culinary career. Some of the best experience I received was working under some truly talented chefs, and earning a spot in their kitchen. This broader experience led to a thirst for more education, countless hours in the kitchen, and ultimately those factors are what has brought me to where I find myself today.
How do you dream up your recipes? Do you use cannabis in any way to help you create?
Cannabis use, for me, is strictly medicinal. I only use it as a natural sleep-aid. Creativity is the result of a relaxed mind for me, and fatigue or stress causes me to lose my focus. A regular sleep pattern provides me with a more natural relaxed state so that I can create freely. When I create recipes I look to anything and everything for inspiration. It could be an art exhibit, live music, a flower on the side of the road, chefs I admire and what they are doing now, culinary trends or just beautiful seasonal ingredients. Creating recipes is an art form for me and creating edible art is a natural fit.
What’s your most popular dish?
It would be my dark chocolate cake bite made with 65% dark chocolate, topped with chocolate ganache, and sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt. It is a balance between what people want, chocolate, and what they don’t want to admit they like, namely a decadent dessert. The bites are a cross between chocolate cake and fudge. They have a balanced flavor profile, are bite-sized, and low dose. This is the one infusion I have to package up, and deliver quickly. I have a major weakness for chocolate anything!
Do you have a favorite dish?
My favorite dish is based on a family staple: chicken matzah ball soup. I made a medicated chicken matzah ball soup where I infused the matzah ball with cannabis, roasted garlic, and thyme, and it married beautifully into my mother’s traditional recipe she made for me as a child.
If you could describe your cooking in one word it would be?
What are your business goals?
My primary focus right now is to build my personal brand. As my brand becomes established it enables me to provide industry leaders, other brands and the consumer access to the services I offer: cannabis culinary consulting, terpene pairing dinners, a line of cookware specific to cooking with cannabis, cookbooks, a line of food based products (both infused and non-infused) and who knows…maybe a cannabis juicing company.
Do you sell your products to dispensaries?
I partner with companies on product development and they sell to dispensaries, but I do not sell directly to dispensaries. For the consumer looking for the “Melissa Parks” product…I am in development of my own line of products. My products will be geared around custom orders, dietary needs, medical dietary restrictions, and loaded with healing herbs and spices.
Who is primarily buying your books?
The goal of the book, which I partnered up with the team from Herb & fellow edible chef Laurie Wolf, was to appeal to a wide range of readers. The recipes Laurie and I put together are the perfect combination of sophistication and fun. Anything from seared flank steak and medicated chimichurri sauce to game day bites like medicated white queso dip and homemade tortilla chips.
Would you ever do signings at dispensary’s?
I think that would be great! I would love to try and do some culinary demonstrations along with the signings. I love connecting with others in the cannabis industry. It is such an exciting time to be a part of this movement, and it does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
MELISSA’S ALL-STAR MENU
* Seared diver scallops with arugula puree, crispy purple sweet potatoes, & cannabis infused meyer lemon/tarragon buerre blanc
“Truth be told, I love seafood. I tend to make dishes I love to eat, and scallops are high on that list. I seared the scallops to golden brown on the outside, and tender on the inside. Placed them atop a fresh and bright arugula puree, crisped up potatoes for a textural contrast, and finished the dish with the medicated buerre blanc sauce. The sauce is a traditional French butter sauce, and was the perfect vehicle for cannabutter.”
* Seared duck breast with cannabis infused morel mushroom risotto topped w/plum & sherry vinegar reduction
“The seared duck breast was the centerpiece of the dish. The breasts were seared to ensure a crispy skin, then sliced, and set atop the decadent risotto infused with cannabutter and loads of earthy mushrooms. The reduction cut through the fat, and kept diners gong back in for more.”
*10 mg infused lemon coconut bites
Tt”These are bite sized reminders of childhood with an adult twist. The shortbread crust was the bottom layer of this bright and cheerful pastry. Next was a layer of thick citrusy custard laced & topped with toasted coconut shavings.”
*Chocolate shortcake with lavender & thyme whipped cream & medicated sour cherry sauce.
“This was a fun dessert to create from start to finish. The light and airy cake topped with an herbaceous and floral whip cream needed something to finish off the experience. The medicated sour cherry sauce tied it all together.”
LE CORDON BLEU AT A GLANCE
Legend has it that the infamous culinary school got its name and origins from an elite group of French knights in 1576. According to lore, the group became known for its extravagant and luxurious banquets, known as “cordons bleus.” While these dinners ended at the time of the French Revolution, the name remained synonymous with excellent cooking. The name was eventually adopted by the French culinary magazine, La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu, in the late 19th century. The magazine began offering lessons by some of the best chefs in France. This grew to become a cooking school that opened in Paris in 1895 and which became recognized as one of the most elite cooking schools in the world. Today, school exist in the UK, USA, Australia, Korea, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Thailand. Alumni include: Mario Batali, Simon Beck, Julia Child, Lyn Peters, Homaro Cantu and Gianfranco Chiarini.
Check out Melissa Park’s Book on Amazon