Note from the editor: This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
Get high, order fancy takeout, repeat: for the last 180 days, Washington, D.C. resident Joel Haas has been eating nothing but fine-dining takeout for every meal of the day. It’s all part of his commitment to supporting local restaurants since the pandemic began and threw a wrench in his plan to eat extravagant meals while stoned in different states across the country.
Stoner food critic Joel Haas was in the middle of a national tour for his podcast, High-Speed Dining, when Covid-19 hit. Rather than quit, especially during a time when restaurants would be among the most impacted, he pivoted to takeout with the goal of helping the hospitality industry survive. Since March, Haas has placed well over 200 orders at about 100 different restaurants, spending more than $35,000 while leaving generous tips for staff.
A love for fine-dining after quitting alcohol
High-Speed Dining began as a way for Haas to showcase his love for fine cuisine and cannabis—two worlds that don’t often coexist—after spending several years running comedy channels for XM Satellite Radio. Today, he does all the filming, editing, sound engineering, producing and liaising with restaurants himself.
“I have not stopped taking photos and videos and documenting my meals for the last two and a half years,” he says. “And I’ve been having the time of my life.” In the podcast’s first year, Haas recorded more than 100 episodes, showcasing 600 meals at 315 restaurants in 17 different states.
Haas admits he hasn’t always been interested in the culinary craft: “I’ve was always a, ‘tell me when it’s last call for food because I’m too busy drinking” kind of guy,” he recalls. When a health issue forced him to quit drinking alcohol more than six years ago, he wasn’t sure what to do with all the extra time, energy, and money that wasn’t going toward his old habit.
“It sort of evolved into eating more and more food, and really enjoying the experience of dining in these wonderful restaurants. So now, I’m a ‘first call for food’ kind of guy. I always say, more fun happens on a full stomach.”
Covid-19 leads to Michelin-star takeout
March 17 was the first day Haas began trading his usual dine-in experiences for takeout. He had been getting high and dining out every night in the weeks prior as part of his goal to visit every state with legal cannabis in one year (between April 20, 2019, and April 20, 2020, to be precise) and enjoy their best cuisine. At first, Haas says he felt lost, and wasn’t sure how to proceed knowing he’d have to cancel a planned trip to Las Vegas.
“I wanted to support restaurants and help out,” he says. “The news kept saying that over half of America’s restaurants were going to close, and that freaked me out. I just started doing takeout on a nightly basis.”
He notes that at the beginning, selection was slim, but after several weeks restaurants upped their take0ut game significantly.
“There are more restaurants doing take0ut now than there ever were in the past, so I call this the golden age of takeout,” he says. “All of these amazing Michelin-star restaurants started doing takeout and offering the opportunity to eat at home; the restaurants I couldn’t get a reservation at for two months in advance are the same ones that I can now order from two hours in advance and have it delivered.”
During the pandemic, he’s concluded several self-imposed challenges, like the Takeout A to Z challenge, which involved ordering from restaurants that start with every letter of the alphabet, and Michelin month, which involved eating at 21 different Michelin-star restaurants over a 31-day period. Haas says he’s been, “enjoying the hell out of it.”
He’s not here to brag, he says, but he can’t help but be proud: ““Getting high at home, eating this amazing food, it’s great. Since the pandemic’s begun, outside of a few snacks, I have eaten nothing but restaurant food.” He says he keeps from gaining weight by walking ten miles a day, and points out he’s currently at his lowest weight since the pandemic began.
Cannabis brings it all together
Sharing stories of stoned dining experiences with chefs and service staff are highlights for Haas, who recalls a host from Fruition, a restaurant in Denver greeting him as he walked in the door: “So you’re the guy who figured out how to live his dream.”
Cannabis, Haas says, makes the the already-luxurious experience of eating in a fancy establishment even more lavish.
“The happiest place in the world for me is in a restaurant being high. The food is already so delicious, and when you’re high it elevates the experience tremendously,” he says, noting that taste is improved, he often eats more, and he’s more relaxed throughout the meal while high than when not.
Haas says over time, his idea of his place in the space between stoner culture and high-end cuisine has shifted. “When I first started this 420 tour last year in Denver, my mindset was that I was trying to dumb down fine-dining,” he says.
“I think at this point, it’s not about that at all. It’s more about connecting with everyone. I’m just a stoner in a sport coat trying to bring the Snoop Dogg crowd to the Martha Stewart restaurant.”
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