Before Andrea Drummer was a world-class marijuana chef, she was an anti-drug counselor telling kids to stay off of pot. “I feel bad! I lied to them,” Drummer says now, in the expansive kitchen overlooking L.A.’s city lights, where she’s about to prepare tonight’s dinner. “I want to go back to them and apologize!”
Drummer is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and co-owner of Elevation VIP Co-op, a Los Angeles–based company that caters high-end, intimate dinner parties. She counts her mother and her childhood — which was spent barbecuing pork on a spitfire or eating corn straight from the field — as major creative influences in her food. Tonight’s theme is “Trashy to Classy,” and she’s created a menu featuring the likes of pig's head terrine with tomato chutney, leeks and chili-corn muffins.
“Trashy to classy is kind of what’s happening on the scene right now, too,” Drummer explains. She’s referencing the fact that food items such as bone marrow have suddenly become luxury items, and thus skyrocketed in price, but she could just as easily be talking about another ingredient she favors: marijuana.
Since Elevation’s inception in 2012, Drummer has made a name for herself as the go-to private chef for cannabinated celebrities and other weed lovers with champagne tastes. She recently appeared on the Netflix docuseries “Chelsea Does,” when she prepared a table for Chelsea Handler and her friends on the show.
“I look at my flower the same way I would any of the other produce that I use,” Drummer says of the cannabis she cooks with. She is thoughtful, not only in sourcing high-grade buds but in pairing strains whose flavors will complement the food they are infused in. “I wouldn’t use an O.G. in dessert, for example,” she explains, “Although I am starting to experiment a little with that.” Tonight’s dessert is a bread pudding with vanilla bean creme anglaise, raspberry coulis and Sour Diesel.
This sophisticated understanding of cannabis is a far cry from the impression Drummer had of the plant and its users in her earlier years in Florida, where she grew up in a conservative household. “I just thought, ‘Everyone who smokes that green stuff gets lazy,’” she recalls. One thing Drummer attributes to the more prevalent stigma around marijuana throughout the East Coast is the lack of strain varieties available. “There’s no indica or sativa out there,” she explains, “It’s just pot, and people see everyone all lazy because they’re just smoking whatever, and so they have this negative perception.”
Drummer’s own understanding of marijuana use changed dramatically when she moved to California and began working for a powerful attorney who used marijuana daily. “This wasn’t a lazy guy. This guy was doing stuff. I mean, he was winning cases,” she says. This prompted her to examine her beliefs about the plant and led her into a period of research and discovery, during which she learned a substantial amount about the politics and science of cannabis but still did not regularly partake in its use herself.
Then came what Drummer refers to as the “Bruschetta Miracle.”
A friend of hers had given her some trim and, knowing of her culinary skills, asked her to make some edibles. Since Drummer herself favors savory over sweet, she made some infused bruschetta and invited a girlfriend over to try it. It tasted so good that she ate seven pieces of it. Reliving that night, her face lights up with laughter. “My friend literally slapped me and said, ‘We have to sell this stuff!’”
Thus Elevation was born. Drummer teamed up with business partner Hamady Diallo, an Angeleno by way of Washington by way of Mali, who immediately wanted to work with Drummer because of the extraordinary culinary talent he saw in her. The two of them quickly put together a business plan, designed a logo and obtained a California dispensary license, and they were off the ground.
Working with Drummer tonight is her sous chef, Ashley Evans, who has been with the company since February, and who Drummer is adamant will “have equity in the company soon.” Drummer and Evans move about the kitchen together with remarkable focus and ease. They laugh often and dice with precision. When speaking and in silence, they operate with a kind of shorthand.
Evans is self-described as food-obsessed. Though she counts herself as a cannabis advocate now, she did not have much interest in the plant prior to coming to Elevation. It was Drummer’s similar take on food that compelled her to join up. After trying a blueberry desert Drummer had made at an event, Evans thought to herself, “OK. Wow. Somebody gets it,” and asked Drummer if she could go to work for her.
“I just threw her to the wolves,” Drummer says of the first night she had Evans in her kitchen. It was a 10-course Grammys party, and Drummer was immediately impressed by Evan’s level of professionalism, particularly given that she had had no formal kitchen training. “I see people all the time, who have been to cooking school, who just don’t have it together like her,” Drummer says.
“With everything that happens, I know I’m in the right industry,” says Drummer, who describes herself as a lifelong rebel. “When I was younger, there was my authentic self, and then what I believed to be my moral compass. I’m more open now and have broadened ideals. It’s been a great journey.”
Even Drummer’s religious family has embraced the field she’s chosen. Despite the fact that the medicinal properties of cannabis have rid her of sciatica pain, thus allowing her to cook, Drummer was apprehensive about telling her mother and sister what exactly she was doing for work in California when the three of them went on a recent trip together. “My sister’s response was, ‘The leaves of the tree are for the healing of nations!’ (a verse from Revelations), I couldn’t believe it! And my dad, he just looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be rich someday.’”
In the hopefully-not-too distant future of legalized cannabis, Diallo would love to open a restaurant with the Elevation team, and envisions Drummer becoming the first cannabis chef to earn a Michelin star. For now, Drummer sees the team as, primarily, “vehicles for this era of Prohibition.”
She pours me a watermelon ginger mocktail: The juice is sweet and cooling. The cannabis extract — 10 milligrams of OG Kush — cuts the nectar with an earthiness. The drink feels fresh and necessary on this dry evening, even though fall was supposed to start today.