As the cannabis industry transitions out of the gray market, there’s rapidly growing competition among entrepreneurs to create trusted brands that offer unique experiences. Rock Star Chefz, a cannabis cuisine company founded by Millie Fernandez, is no exception. Fernandez (aka Chef Milz) whips up “elevated” concoctions — from chocolate fountains to sushi platters — accompanied by hip-hop and R&B soundtracks. But it’s far from contrived.
The former rapper started cooking at 8, freestyling to tapes at 9 and smoking weed at 13, all from her modest family home in Baranquilla, Colombia. These days, the L.A.-based chef still does all those things but from the kitchen for high-profile clients such as Travis Barker, Tyga and Snoop Dogg.
“Rock Star Chefz really just started because I wanted to incorporate all the things I’m passionate about," she says. "I love entertaining."
While many companies in the booming canna-cuisine sector offer pop-ups with plated dinners, Rock Star Chefz does interactive — bordering on sensational — presentations such as a “human sushi platter,” in which cannabis-infused sushi is served on a female or male model (depending on the client’s preference), and shots of alcohol made from a variety of strains and flavors.
Vanessa Corrales, founder of California-based cannabis sugar company B-Edibles, has been to dozens of cannabis cuisine events in the Los Angeles area. Corrales says even among all the competition, Chef Milz stands out, describing her as the “Bill Nye of cannabis.” “She's not afraid to 'go there,'” Corrales says. “As an entrepreneur myself, I really commend her for being so creative.”
While Chef Milz cooks, she teaches her guests about the intricacies of cannabis cuisine: the special wax, flour, butter and tinctures she uses to concoct different flavors and highs. Her look is as wild as her preparations: She unapologetically rocks a mohawk with thick hoop earrings and a black chef's coat with the distinctive red Rock Star Chefz logo. It's this charisma that got her selected as a competitor on the Food Network's Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. "She really is more than a chef," said Alysia Salvador, a photographer who has covered Chef Milz's events. "She's just so fun to watch."
On some days, Milz says she couldn't have imagined another path for herself. On others, she says, she's in awe of who she has become. Her mother, a drug addict, abandoned her at 4 years old and she was found by the local police in Miami. "With my life, I basically would have had the perfect excuse to be a junkie living under a bridge now," Milz says. Her extended family located her in the United States and brought her to Colombia when she was 8. It was there that she learned how to cook.
As a young girl, she recalls helping her grandmother pull together meals for their family of more than 30 people using leftovers from the week. Milz would stand on a little stool to reach the counter, helping make everything by hand as they didn’t have tools such as an electric mixer. It's these early life experiences that inspired Milz to make altruism a key component of Rock Star Chefz. Ten percent of her company's proceeds go toward visits she makes to foster care homes in L.A., where she shares her story and teaches kids the basics of healthy cooking.
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Her focus now is on bringing the food of her childhood, elevated and ordinary, to Angelenos. One of her go-to ingredients is sofrito, a traditional sauce made from tomato, onions, garlic and cilantro. She also specializes in a cannabis version of a dish she used to get on the beaches of her hometown in Colombia: a whole fried tilapia, marinated with salt, pepper and garlic, and served with coconut rice, plantains and an avocado salad. It comes with THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, or CBD, for customers, such as those with medical conditions, who want to alleviate their anxiety or pain without getting high. "When you say Latin food, the first type of food that comes to mind is Mexican, which is delicious," Milz says. "But there's this whole other amazing palate of Latin food, and Colombian is one of them."
Milz's goal for 2018 is taking this regional food on the road with a cannabis-infused Colombian fast food truck. The menu offers American fare such as hot dogs, kebabs and burgers, but each dish has a Colombian rendition. The hot dog, for example, comes loaded with crispy potato chips, pineapple sauce, pink sauce, chimichurri and fresh herbs. The THC and CBD are infused into the butter she uses to grill the meat.
Ultimately, Chef Milz aims to turn Rock Star Chefz into a nonprofit, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to foster care homes. She also has visions of a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Las Vegas, the ideal location, she thinks, for her culinary extravaganzas. "I'm not where I want to be yet, but considering where I came from, I'm really blessed," Milz says. "I'm just excited to see where this is all headed."