The Untold Truth Of Nikki Steward, The Celebrity Weed Chef

If you're a fan of food and marijuana, you have probably heard of celebrity chef Nikki Steward. Prior to becoming a world-renowned chef, the Ohio native earned a degree in pharmaceutical sciences and began her career in healthcare at a CVS pharmacy, she revealed in an interview with Thrillist. "I felt like I was just counting pills inside, all day every day, telling people what to take and what not to take, making elderly people upset because I'm not able to charge their insurance — I hated it." It was then that Steward decided to pivot to a career that was more "soul satisfying" (via Rolling Out).

After that, the successful chef built The High-End Affair, a touring cannabis culinary and entertainment experience, according to the website, from the ground up. She's even set out to develop her own cooking show, "Around the Pot," with cannabis tech company Weedmaps, she told MJ PurePlay Index. The show will give viewers and celebrity guests a look at Steward's unique style of cooking with marijuana, from THC to CBD. Here's more to know about this one-of-a-kind chef.

Steward's grandmother was her original inspiration

Although Steward's culinary career didn't kick off until her late 20s, her love affair with food began when she was a young girl in her grandmother's kitchen. "My relationship with food started early, with my grandma's dinners after church on Sunday," Steward shared with Thrillist. "I started helping her, and she just started teaching me little hacks." From broccoli cooked in broth to delicious pound cake, Steward's grandmother was the one person the celebrity chef knew who cooked all her food from scratch (via Columbus Monthly).

The more Steward learned, the more impressed her grandmother became with her cooking. During college, Steward continued to visit her grandmother's house every Sunday and even started pitching in for holiday dinners. "I remember the day she passed on her pound cake pan to me — I still have it," she said to Thrillist. Her grandmother passed away in 2020, and the pan remains a way for Steward to remember their best memories together: making cakes.

Her pharmacy expertise helps with her cooking

Although Steward's career in pharmaceuticals ultimately wasn't a fit, her healthcare background gives her a unique edge in the culinary industry. "I got into cooking with cannabis because I was inspired by the idea of preparing 'healing foods' and creating 'elevated' experiences," Steward shared in an interview with Bloom & Oil. "I decided to explore combining what I learned in pharmaceutical sciences with my passion for culinary arts. I wanted to balance flavors with ingredients that promote wellness."

Steward began experimenting with cuisine during her college years, when she profited from her homemade alcohol and weed-infused cakes that she sold from her dorm room (per Thrillist). Today, the innovative chef is able to carefully imbibe foods with cannabis without overpowering the flavors, a process she compares to chemistry and says is more complex than molecular gastronomy, as a result of her pharmaceutical background. "As a self-taught food scientist, it took a lot of trial and error. I consulted with doctors, scientists, growers, and processors in the field to come up with the formations that resulted in balanced products and exciting new recipes," Steward shared with Thrillist.

The chef has cooked for A-list celebrities

Every chef has their areas of expertise, and one of Steward's happens to be cooking for famous figures around the world. "I decided that I was going to try and find a niche, and I went the celebrity route," Steward said in an interview with Columbus Monthly. "I enjoyed the travel and the excitement of being able to create any menu for anyone at any point in time." Between catering Dave Chappelle's Summer Camp (a comedy and music festival) to going on tour with DJ Khaled, Steward has worked with her fair share of celebrities.

Steward's first major gig for a famous client occurred in 2017, when she was asked to cater a 250-person dinner party for Snoop Dogg. The former pharmacist served an 8- or 10-course cannabis dinner that included arancini, chicken and waffles, and jerk jackfruit (via Thrillist).

Steward is the first person to dispel the idea that cooking with A-list celebrities is all "fun and games." "There's a high level of standards that people expect and [that] you maintain," said Catie Randazzo, a chef who helps with Steward's events from time to time. "There's also a level of privacy. You have to put your head down and do the work."

Steward had a less traditional culinary education

Unlike many celebrity chefs, Steward has never had formal culinary training. "I went into more or less an immersive training that I put myself in. I didn't want to go to culinary school, because I'd already been in school for something else," she said to Columbus Monthly. Instead, Steward traveled around the world and studied in restaurants under James Beard Award-winning chefs in locations including Thailand, Central America, and Europe. This gave her the opportunity to learn about a variety of cooking styles and techniques (via MJ PurePlay Index).

Steward completed the type of training known as a stage, she told Rolling Out, nuturing her talent over time and learning from talented executive chefs. "I really honed my skills, started from the bottom of the kitchen and then went to the top," she shared. By experiencing the lowest rung of the culinary ladder, Steward learned that she didn't want to work under someone else or be on the receiving end of the pay inequity within the industry. "There's no way I could survive off of $12 to $13 an hour, and I don't think anyone should," she said.

One of Steward's most popular dishes is comfort food at its finest

When it comes to marijuana edibles, sweet treats like brownies and chocolates are typically the first things that come to mind. But according to Steward, incorporating cannabis into savory dishes is a growing trend, particularly for medicinal purposes. When infusions are done correctly, the person consuming the food should feel the effects of the cannabis without actually tasting it. "I like to describe cannabis in food as a supplement versus an ingredient," she shared in an interview with Bloom & Oil.

When it comes to the most requested dish in her repertoire, Steward reported that it's none other than mac and cheese. "It's just one of those things, we like comfort when we're high anyway, and who doesn't like mac and cheese?" Steward shared with Uproxx. Her simple but delicious version of the dish is also known for being a favorite of Dave Chappelle's, one of Steward's A-list customers. "Dave [Chappelle] tells the story all the time about being high on my mac and cheese," Steward reveals to MJ PurePlay Index. "So whenever I work for Dave, I always have a little mac and cheese tucked away, because Dave is always telling somebody, 'I bet you she has it.'"