BY MARIE LODI
Ever since her childhood in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury area, Flour Child’s Stephany Gocobachi knew she wanted to be a chef. You could always find her in the kitchen with her mom and grandma, baking blueberry muffins for her kindergarten class. Gocobachi even began collecting cookbooks at a young age. “My mom would bring home boxes and boxes of old issues of Gourmet and Bon Appetitand it was my favorite thing,” she says. “I still have tons and tons of way old back issues of them.” Gocobachi was only about eight years old when she began cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her family. “I would get super into it and cut out recipes for a month and plan out the whole menu—and I still kind of do,” she says.
Since cannabis was always pretty prevalent in the Bay Area, it was easy for Gocobachi to learn about edibles as she got older, eventually learning how to make them herself. Her friend’s older brother was living on a farm in Humboldt and would bring down pounds of trim for her to experiment with in her cooking, and that was the start of her journey as a weed chef (and so much more). “Even back then I was like, ‘why do people only make brownies?’ You can put it into anything. You can put it into any fat or any alcohol. So, why is it such a narrow scope? I didn't get it,” she says. “And especially being in the Bay where there's so much amazing food, I was like, well why not?”
She’s not alone in this thinking. Cannabis is becoming a serious ingredient in kitchensacross the world. There’s even a gourmet cannabis restaurant in Amsterdam. It’s important to remember, though, that it wasn’t always like this. When Gocobachi got her medical marijuana card, she immediately went to a dispensary, but she was disappointed in the lack of edible options. “Back then, dosage was not a thing. It wasn't even considered. Everything was super strong and almost nothing was made with real food; it was still all junk food for the most part. Nothing was really gourmet at the same level as what you would expect to find around San Francisco,” she says. Gocobachi felt that cannabis edibles should be regulated along the lines of non-medicated food. “You're dealing with both food and medicine, and there's just so many similarities between the two,” she says.
Gocobachi then decided to head to New York City to learn how to cook. She enrolled in NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study to learn about food sustainability and social entrepreneurship. It was in class when she first shared her ideas about cooking with cannabis, even though she was nervous to talk about it at first. But rather than being judged, Gocobachi was met with curiosity from her teacher and classmates. “They were super curious and interested, and this is in New York, way before they even legalized medical, which is still really strict,” she says.
Gocobachi says the response “fueled her” to explore both culinary technique and cannabis cooking. She started writing business plans while working in restaurants in the city so she could learn how to make edibles “at the highest level possible.” This included a stint as a pastry chef at Danny Meyer’s restaurant,Maialino. It was during her time in New York when she met her future partner,Akhil Khadse, a fellow chef who grew up in Queens.
Gocobachi ended up moving back to San Francisco, bringing Khadse with her. She worked as a produce buyer at Bi-Rite Market in the Mission, and started teaching cooking classes that focused on seasonal, affordable cuisine which allowed her to make connections with lots of farmers. In 2015, she and Khadse launched Flour Child, which focuses on sustainable cannabis foods rooted in the slow living philosophy. The result: strain-specific jams and granolas, all made with high-quality, organic ingredients sourced from family-owned farms. “One of the reasons why we chose to do jam was because I wanted to continue to work with these farmers that I had really grown to love and care about,”Gocobachi says.
Flour Child was innovative from its inception. Gocobachi wanted to make food that wouldn’t be too strong for people who had really negative experiences with edibles in the past. "I wanted something that was easy to dose, easy to measure, and made with organic everything,” she says. It was microdosing before it had a name. “I wanted something that was as good as what you would find in a market like Bi-Rite, or in a restaurant that you love, or your local cafe. I didn't think that there should be any reason for a difference in quality. It should all be the same.”
Gocobachi says there were challenges at first, like the dispensaries that told her people only cared about “dollars per milligram,” or thought Flour Child’s products were “too nice and too different.” She says that a few years later, those same shops ended up turning around and becoming interested in what she knew.
Now, Gocobachi says she’s trying to figure out a way to get Flour Child’s beloved jams and granolas back on the market in a way that makes sense for them—something that adheres to the current laws while also being sustainable. “A lot of child-resistant packaging for food products doesn't necessarily exist at the moment, and a lot of makers just put it into an outside Mylar bag or something. But it's so counterintuitive to me and what our brand is about, to just put it in more plastic that's going to end up in a landfill or on the streets.”
In the meantime, Gocobachi is doing consulting and making recipes for other companies. “The biggest thing for me is just showing people how to use cannabis in ways that are approachable and doable, because otherwise I could make all kinds of fancy recipes and no one will ever cook them at home. It kind of defeats the purpose for me.” She’s also glad it’s become easier for consumers to enjoy low-dosage cannabis edibles: “A few years ago, it was very much a rare thing, so it makes me happy to finally see it going in the direction that I kind of predicted so many years ago. It's exciting.”