Elevated Cuisine: STL’s Rooted Buds provide an infused dining experience
It’s difficult to encompass an entire community compared to another, but St. Louis and Kansas City each provide a different approach to cannabis and education. It’s still early days for legal weed in Missouri, and while it’s too soon to tell which way the wind blows for caregivers and small businesses, many consumers and providers had concerns about its passing.
On one hand, KC has a closer connection to Colorado and the long-established companies that have been eyeing the Missouri ballots for the last few years. On the other, St. Louis has had to compete with a recreational market just a few miles over the state line in Illinois, creating an edge for small businesses trying to find momentum in a yet undeveloped medical market.
“Because [the corporations] are large enough, they have access to the capital, they have their manufacturing license and all of those things, it really blocks us,” says co-owner and chef Snoop Hollins, one half of the duo who created Rooted Buds.
Snoop and partner Denise Hollins are working side-by-side to cultivate a safe space for the cannabis community to become a main ingredient in the culinary arts. The two have been working to combine their many years in the service industry with an inherent love for weed.
Their concerns aren’t unfounded—there have been many issues brought up about the ways in which the law benefits “failsafe” companies compared to those who have been living the reality of limited resources and have much more to lose. There are also questions about the ways in which a primarily red state will handle issues like home growing, licensing, and parents who choose to partake.
“To know that I could possibly lose my child or I could run into issues just because I’m consuming? That’s the part [lawmakers] were refusing to answer. At the end of the day, this is how they feel,” Denise says.
“We don’t see a lot who are taking it and acting out or knocking people out. It’s munchies most of the time, very laid back,” Snoop adds.
That’s part of how Rooted Buds was born. As cannabis users themselves, the two were looking for a way to step out of general hospitality and into something much more creative and community-driven.
“During the pandemic, we went to a party that one of our friends threw. They had some infused food, and it was nice, but we just thought we could do something a little bit different,” Denise says.
Next came a series of cannabis courses, along with trial and error, to ensure that what they wanted to create was wholly safe and as transparent as possible. The two use a variety of different methods to properly dose. Beyond the traditional butter and oil, they’ve come to rely on other methods like vegetable-based glycerin and seasoning for catering to consumers who may be vegan and plant-based, as they once were. There are options for CBD or THC-infused sauces, infused food, or un-infused catering.
“From a dispensary, my tolerance might be 30-40 milligrams, but if I get something from the street, maybe it’s 100 milligrams, or I can eat the entire thing. You just don’t know,” Snoop says.
Things took off for the duo when they began hosting what they call Fried Fridays at The Cola Lounge, the first legal consumption lounge in Missouri. From there, pop-up events began sprouting up. They’ve done grand openings, birthday parties, and weddings and have created their own private dining club to ensure that when cannabis is involved, it’s being done legally.
Now that the state has gone recreational, they’re looking forward to expanding and providing for consumers on a larger scale. On their side is a tight-knit community of other small businesses in St. Louis like Luxury Leaf and Sanct Lounge, who are open to partnering and cultivating experiences for the city they love.
“They’re really doing it right. One of the issues is that people don’t know how to infuse food,” says Jamila-Owens Todd, a doctor and member of the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association who helped create Sanct. “So what we’re finding is that you get an older population, a lot of what we call canna-curious. They’re interested but have never consumed it before. And because edibles have a much longer effect, you don’t want to be super high.”
Denise and Snoop both agree that their long-term goal is to educate and foster a laid-back environment where experimentation feels comfortable for anyone who may be hesitant. It certainly helps that their food not only looks incredible, but tastes even better.
“We have a lot of people who are actually surprised. They’re like, ‘It’s inside here? In this sandwich?’” Denise says. Occasionally, they must ensure people their food isn’t infused unless specifically requested. That sort of food isn’t dished out without prior knowledge.
“We want you to eat the entire meal. We want you to be able to eat the whole thing and not be too messed up,” Snoop says.
“We’re in the industry, showing love, building connections, and providing experiences for people. That’s what’s important to us—making sure people are medicating, and the experiences are what they’re looking for,” Denise says.
As they venture into creating infused products that can be bottled and sold, like their custom-made sweet and spicy Bud Sauce, there are other plans still on the horizon. Most recently, they hosted a self-care luncheon for women with weed and wine. Fried Fridays are back at The Cola Lounge, and the two are currently seeking support to open a brick-and-mortar concept for a more permanent location.