Cacao and Cannabis With Coda Chef Lauren Gockley

Coda chef Lauren Gockley.
Coda chef Lauren Gockley. Courtesy of Coda
Once a rare treat, cannabis-infused edibles ain't no longer a thang here in Colorado. In fact, they're a large and growing presence in the legal pot industry, now accounting for around 15 percent of the recreational market share...and that's still rising, according to several industry studies. Infused-product companies are using tasteless distillate, isolates and water-infusing powders to cook with cannabis, making the possibilities virtually limitless.

Today you can find anything from coffee to beef jerky and Dutch stroopwafels infused with THC and CBD on dispensary shelves in Colorado, and making pot-infused dishes at home has never been more popular. So what's still sexy about old-school edibles, such as chocolates? We asked Lauren Gockley, chef for award-winning edibles company Coda Signature, about the evolving art of cooking with cannabinoids.

Westword: How'd you get involved in cannabis cooking?

Lauren Gockley: I have been a chocolatier for thirteen years and have always sought out unique ways to explore the magic of cacao. After learning more about the physiological effects of cannabis and their similarities to cacao, I could not resist pursuing such a powerhouse partnership.

Cacao contains a chemical similar to one that our brain produces naturally, anandamide. Anandamide, also known as the “bliss molecule,” stimulates our brain's endocannabinoid receptors and can mimic the action of marijuana. Anandamide is called an endocannabinoid because it is made by our body and mimics the cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant. Thus, an ingredient in chocolate and an ingredient in the marijuana plant are both capable of stimulating our brain's own neurotransmitter system. Amazing!

Other than infusion, what are some challenges involved with cooking with cannabis, compared to "regular" food?

It is challenging not being able to constantly taste the products we create. We therefore must work diligently on our manufacturing processes to ensure consistency in flavor and, most important, in the cannabis experience.

Also, I can only eat 5 milligrams of THC at a time! Keeping in mind the restraint one must have when safely dosing edibles, I have to make each bite a flavor explosion!

What are some foods or dishes that would be good for infusing with cannabis that aren't taken advantage of enough?

I see lots of opportunities for savory infusions. I love the idea of enjoying a cannabis-infused hors d'oeuvre at a party so that there is ample time for the effects to take place. I have successfully paired our burnt-caramel truffle with a luscious French triple-cream cheese. The deep caramel, bitter chocolate and crunchy salt pair perfectly with such a rich cheese.

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Coda chef Lauren Gockley.
Courtesy of Coda
What are some ways to enhance a plain ol' pot-infused candy bar, cookie or brownie?

From chocolate to cannabis, start with quality ingredients. We use mostly single-origin chocolate from South America. I am especially proud of the unexpected decadence of the single-origin white chocolate in our Cream & Crumble chocolate bar. It will make a white-chocolate lover out of anyone! Also, just like wine, use the same high-quality cannabis to cook as you would smoke!

Do you try to mask the flavors and terpenes that come with cannabis? Do you embrace them? Or both?

Embrace it! I am enchanted by the sweet earthiness of cannabis, and seek to showcase the essential terpene profiles at the core of our company's flavors.

What do you prefer, CBD or THC edibles? Is there an art to cooking with both at the same time?

I love both together! It is incredibly gratifying to hear the positive effects that people have experienced with our THC:CBD products. This synergistic relationship adds another layer of excitement to all the possibilities of cannabis. There are definitely some different flavor notes to our CBD oil that I look to build on. Our 1:1 Snap & Spice bar matches the beautiful earthiness with lots of spices and rich, darkened milk chocolate.

What are some of your favorite edibles?

When it comes to Coda Signature edibles, that's like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. Each one of our handcrafted chocolates is special in its own way. I enjoy the products from 1906 and greatly appreciate their approach to creating quality edibles with a strong purpose.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell