STORIES

Catalunya Cannabis' Albert Dedeu on Culinary Activism

By David Jenison on July 27, 2017

Catalan filmmaker, chef and cannabis social club owner Albert Dedeu spent most of his childhood in the Middle East and Asia, and he can take credit for getting a young Leonardo DiCaprio so stoned in a Hong Kong nightclub that he had to be carried out. As a young adult, Dedeu attended NYC Film School before settling (for now) in Barcelona, Spain. He and his Los Angeles-born partner Dot specialize in 360/VR filmmaking and photography and launched a boutique brand called Catalunya Cannabis that's poised to be an industry leader when Catalonia fully legalizes cannabis. Under the Catalunya Cannabis brand, Dedeu regularly hosts speakeasy dinners that include terpene-infused dishes and cannabis-infused cocktails. PRØHBTD connected with Dedeu at his favorite social club in Barcelona to learn more. 

Tell me about the cannabis dinners.

We're mixing two of our passions, two of our loves, two things that are predominantly important here in Barcelona, which are cuisine and cannabis. We enjoy playing with new foods and new styles of cooking that we marry with cannabis. Edibles are a lot of fun when they are taken carefully, and that's why we decided to use terpenes. We do a six- or seven-course dinner that's just terpenes, and we serve a cocktail at the beginning that contains a tincture, which is the only thing fully infused. We don't actually cook with cannabis, but we did start to add cannabis-infused honey in the past couple of dinners, and we have flower that people can vaporize. This way is just safer. The first couple of times we did infused dinners, people got really stoned, and we don't want people to get really, really stoned. 

How can people reading this go to the dinners?

Right now the dinners are invite only, and every time we put something up in our closed circuit, it gets filled up really, really quickly. To get an invite, you have to be invited into our circle. We've got a closed group on Instagram, and if someone we trust introduces you, we'll add you to our mailing list. We send out an email, people tell us how many they are and then they make a down payment with PayPal. 

We're thinking of doing larger-format events in which we rent out a cool terrace at a nice spot with some live music or a DJ and have a lighter format with finger foods. We want more people to be able to come since these events are really just a way to publicize our brand, Catalunya Cannabis. 

Tell me about the brand.

We're playing around with different products right now. Cannabis is still in that gray legal area here so we're keeping it in a very limited circle, such as influencers and people in the biz, to try stuff out. We have some THC-infused lubricant for girls, and we're working on one for boys. We've got THC capsules, cannabis-infused honey and some CBD creams for under the eyes and for arthritis. We're seeing what works, what our clientele enjoys, and getting some feedback. For the past two years in Catalonia, everyone's been saying, "[Legalization] is gonna happen," so we're trying to build the brand now so it'll be easier to launch when it goes 100-percent legit. It's also important to start putting these ideas into the minds of high-society tastemakers to help get rid of the taboo that some people associate with cannabis. 

Talk to me about the cannabis taboo.

The two cops in a movie just killed all the bad guys, and they're about to bust the worst guy. One turns to the other and says, "As soon as we finish this, we're buying a bottle of whiskey, and we're drinking the whole fucking thing." Everybody in the cinema thinks, "Yeah, they deserve it! They're the good guys." But if the same cop says, "As soon as we get home, I'm rolling a big blunt, and I'm smoking it with you." Everyone would think, "I thought they were the good guys. How come they're smoking a blunt?"

I've owned bars, I've owned clubs, and I've served a beer to somebody thinking, "I hope there's no one waiting for you at home because they're going to get it." I've had a nightclub with six security guards. We don't have any security guards here [in the cannabis club]. At worst, somebody will be like, "Dude, these sprinkled donuts are nicer than those sprinkled donuts." "No, dude. I think we might have to go taste them both to see who's right. Let's hug it out, okay? Agree to disagree." 

If somebody's smoking a joint over there, and you say, "Oh, shit. Are you smoking Gorilla Glue?" Ninety percent of the time, they'll be like, "Yeah. You want a hit?" Try going to a bar and saying, "Is that cognac you're drinking? Can I have a sip?" The person will be like, "Get the fuck away from me." One is taboo, the other isn't, but who's to say one's more social or better for society than the other. 

Actually, I would. Cannabis is better for society.

Fuck yeah. Exactly. 

In what ways do you see high-end cuisine helping eliminate some of the stereotypes associated with cannabis?

The type of people who can afford that kind of cuisine aren't going to be burned out, stereotypical stoners. I don't see anybody having to justify buying a six pack, even though most people who beat their wives do it after a six pack. All the stereotypical people associated with cannabis, which we know are false stereotypes, aren't the end user for that kind of culinary experience, and it's good for the movement if high-end gastronomy can help bring that to light. 

For your own dinners, do you vary the dishes each time? 

We have a few menus that we're trying to perfect, but we also do a guest chef every couple of months. If you've come to us before and had our menu, you can always jump onto our guest chef, and if you've never come to us, then try our menu. We don't limit ourselves to a specific culinary style. We're more into what will heighten the bouquet of terpenes we're using. Right now we're coming up with a quintessential stoner gastronomy menu. 

What would be an example of stoner cuisine?

Mac and cheese with five gourmet cheeses and truffle oil topped with flaming hot Cheeto dust. It's little spins on the classics that take it to that gourmet level.

Will your edibles be small-batch artisanal or mass market?

With these dinners, if people want to order some edibles from us,we will let them know when we do a little batch or when our friends do, and that's much more artisanal. As it becomes legal, [our edibles] would be mass. We'll get licenses and either team up with our contacts in California or experiment ourselves to do it our own way here. 

Tell me about your own background in culinary arts. 

My culinary arts background is being a foodie and a curious human being. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Hong Kong, and I've been very fortunate to visit very great restaurants from a very young age. I think it starts with trying really great food because if you don't try it, if your mouth doesn't know that it exists, it's hard for your brain to want to make it. Four or five years ago, I got into the Paleo lifestyle and then the clean lifestyle. I started cooking everything from scratch, so I started reading up on the best ways to do things. You discover new concepts and new ways of doing the same old thing. 

Was there a specific meal that set you on the course to be a foodie? 

Honestly, I couldn't pinpoint any one meal. I've been so fortunate that I was having amazing meals when I was five years old. Living the expat life is an exceptional life, so from a very young age, we were tasting things that most people don't get to taste, whether it's a lamb's eyeball cooked by Bedouins in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert or stinky tofu in the streets of Hong Kong or donkey in Mongolia. For me, everywhere we'd go, the food was so different, but the building blocks were the same. It's like French, Spanish, Portuguese and English all use the same letters, the same building blocks, but they each put them together and pronounce them in different ways. That's how I see world cuisine.

[Famed restaurant] elBulli sent several chefs into the world creating a movement. Noma arguably followed suit with its chefs opening restaurants like Agern in New York, Slotskøkkenet in Denmark and even Flor de Lis in Guatemala City. Is there a new restaurant or scene that will dominate the culinary landscape in the next five years? 

Asia's long overdue for something like that. Some really great chefs come out of Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, and it's going to be more like what new fusion will be the next big thing. As far as the movement of training the next generation of chefs, elBulli was a factory of Michelin-star chefs. People went there and got paid nothing. It was a learning experience. [The owners/chefs] made money on everything else, but the restaurant lost money because it was there to experiment, to try new things. It's hard to find somebody with the talent and gusto to say, "Fuck it. We're going to lose money," and be okay with it for real. 

How would you describe the cannabis culture in Catalonia? 

The cannabis culture in Catalonia is awesome. People always think Amsterdam, but in my opinion, Amsterdam's fallen behind. You can smoke weed there, but you're in Amsterdam so chances are it'll be rainy and you'll almost get run over by a tram or a bicycle fucking person. Barcelona wins with better weather, better food and the beach, and our clubs, our coffee shops, are equal or better. What we're lacking here are [good] edibles and concentrates because we're not regulated. You can't get a license to manipulate food with THC, so nobody's going to make the investment to get all the machinery to mass produce when you won't be able to sell it to the masses. We do, however, have really good hash from Morocco. They're making it the same way for hundreds of years, but now they have really good buds and genetic strains. It takes everything to another level, and then making rosin out of that is pretty cool. 

Will legalization happen first in Catalonia, in Spain or at the same time? 

It's happening in Catalonia first because the initiative's been running longer here than in the rest of Spain. The only hurdle we're going to run into here is the same as in California, which is federal versus state. Just because it's legal in California doesn't mean Trump's going to say it's okay. You now have [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions who felt the Ku Klux Klan were good people until he found out they smoked marijuana. Thinking that people who lynch black people are good until you find out they smoke cannabis... 

He said he was joking. 

That's a great joke. At least he can fall back on comedy. "Look out, Chapelle, Sessions is in the house." 

I agree, he's a horrible, horrible person.

He's an awful, awful man. 

How soon do you think cannabis will be legal in Catalonia? 

I can't say. I've guessed so many times, and I've been wrong every single time. Every week, they tell us we're there. Honestly, we're in the sixth round of a different fight, which is trying to get our independence [from Spain], and that's cannibalizing all the political time to the detriment of the country. Look, maybe we don't need independence. Just get us some fucking jobs, help the education system, blah, blah, blah, but we have this fascist right-wing government in Spain that's been rolling back all rights. It's illegal to photograph a police officer now, punishable by prison. They just put a girl in prison for a year because she tweeted something insensitive about a government official who got blown up by a bomb 40 years ago. They're trying to make abortion illegal again in this country. We're very progressive on so many things in Catalonia, and we're fighting this right-wing monster that is the Spanish government. (Note: Shortly after this interview, the Parliament of Catalonia legalized cannabis by a vote of 118 to 9, though the supposedly autonomous region might still face legal pushback from the central government and/or courts in Spain.)

Anything else that's important to get in the interview?

Barcelona's been getting a bad rap with the low-cost booze tourism from the U.K., so let's do our best to get some cannabis tourism here. It's definitely better than booze tourism. 

David Jenison (david@prohbtd.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.

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