Joline Rivera: “Cannabis is a functional food”
Leaf Expert is not a site, where you can just read about strains, but find inspiration. We are sure that now all of us need motivational stories with a strong main character to cheer up. And also, for our experienced readers, we want to open an unusual side of the cannabis industry – infused cuisine.
Our first guest is Joline Rivera, Founder of Kitchen Toke Media & Red Belly Honey. She decently faced challenges from an early age and thrived. Joline used to work for a full-time job and receive higher education simultaneously. She could be settled down, working for a designer at one of the world’s largest publishing houses, but willing of own business won. Her strategy was all-in and she succeeded.
Kitchen Toke is the first media company dedicated to teaching people about culinary cannabis for health and wellness. Their printed magazine is distributed to more than 2,500 stores internationally.
The website and magazine cover cooking and entertaining seasonally with cannabis along with the chefs and individuals teaching how to use the plant as part of a regular health and wellness regimen. The website also features recipes and stories told through video and additional on-trend topics where food and cannabis converge.
Design-driven and published throughout the year, Kitchen Toke is the definitive source of cooking with cannabis.
We have found the history of launching at previous interviews and it touched us a lot:
“In 2011 I learned one of my best friend’s father was fighting cancer.
By 2016 he was suffering quite a bit. He couldn’t eat, sleep or live a productive life. His lung cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and he was losing a 5 year battle with cancer. I knew he couldn’t smoke cannabis so I began to research how to make some edibles for him…there wasn’t a lot of information for beginners.
The information I found was made for or directed toward long-time cannabis consumers. I ended up reaching out to friends who were just that…longtime users and asked them if they knew where I could buy some infused chocolates.
They got them for me and I delivered them to my friend’s father. He ate 3 very quickly (against my advice) and the change was evident. He cracked open a beer, began eating chips and a sandwich, and went outside to play with his grandkids.
His 6 daughters had tears of joy in their eyes and were amazed to see their dad in such good spirits. They had not seen him this way for a very long time. For the very first time, I was able to see the power of cannabis right then and there. It was then I knew I could take my 20 years of being a creative director in the food industry and create something that was much needed.
Fred Williams passed away in June of 2016, just 1 short month after my visit. And two months later I started developing the Kitchen Toke brand.”
Joline Rivera is also CEO of Red Belly Honey.
Red Belly Honey is the world’s first whole-plant, full-spectrum hemp honey-infused by honeybees. It’s all-natural, nutrient-rich with CBD (from hemp) and antioxidants. It’s the first time two functional foods are being brought together by nature.
Now, it is time to meet Joline.
Please, tell me more about your audience. What’s the main motivation for people to visit Kitchen Toke?
People are starting to understand cannabis is a functional food and an incredible ingredient that requires some understanding. There are many ways to cook with cannabis beyond the requisite brownie.
What recipes are the most searched?
Instead of recipes the most searched is really the instructions on how to infuse in general—from butter, olive oil, MCT oil, or any alcohol tinctures—they’re still learning the basics to have the right oil to infuse.
Even among our audience, some people had not tried edibles yet. Let’s shed some light. Does cannabis give a specific taste or the main point is just effect?
You can prepare your food hiding the cannabis flavors or prepare your dishes where it’s the star. Everyone cooks with cannabis for different reasons—at Kitchen Toke we’re informing consumers on culinary with cannabis for health and wellness. We all know you can get high, but there’s so much more to this plant than just getting high.
What cannabis dishes are your favorite?
I love eating the raw cannabis leaves and incorporating cannabis into my daily life as opposed to “special occasions”. I chop up the raw leaves in my salad and in my smoothies and then add my favorite MCT oil to whatever I’m eating. My daily life is pretty busy, so I try to keep it really healthy.
What definition is most suitable for you: are you rather cannadishes taster or cooker?
I’m a taster. I like working with chefs and food specialists who really know what they’re doing and introduce cannabis in ways most don’t think about—that’s what we’re doing at Kitchen Toke. It’s been really fun to learn along with my audience.
Are marijuana meals appropriate for everyday usage?
100%. Add it to your oatmeal, granola, your daily tea with honey, a salad, a smoothie, or even pre-made snack bites—if you’ve already prepared your healthy fat that is infused and ready—the rest is easy.
“I’ve been reporting on food trends for nearly 17 years. This is our job at Kitchen Toke as well—to bring forward ideas that others aren’t expecting”
You are destroying clichés that edibles can be presented just like gummies, cookies, or sauces. Your magazine can be helpful both for routine and luxury marijuana recipes. But the strongest amusement, our team has felt was when we saw cannabis Hanukkah and Christmas recipes. It is truly innovative. Was it your idea or readers’ requests?
I’ve been reporting on food trends for nearly 17 years. This is our job at Kitchen Toke as well—to bring forward ideas that others aren’t expecting. As I mentioned we work with food pros who are really doing interesting work. So to answer your question, those ideas were brought forward by our editorial team in collaboration with incredible food pros, chefs, and recipes writers.
Also, it is not the only innovation. On your site, we can find a dosage calculator. Maybe, you have more resemble plans or ideas? What app or plugin could solve cannabis-connected problems?
Honestly, I’m not aware of an app or dosing calculator app out there someone can count on—I’m not saying there isn’t one, I’m saying if there is, I’m not aware of. Understanding your flower, and managing the dosing is key to cooking with cannabis. The dosing calculator is there for those who don’t LOVE math.
How the cannabis industry may look in 2032?
I think as the country continues to legalize, it’ll continue to grow. It’ll simply become more accepted, more normalized. I also think we’ll see continued growth with infused pantry staples—honey, salts, oils, etc. And one day you’ll be able to walk into your dispensary and find refrigerated sections with ready-to-eat ice creams, creams, jars of butter, and ready-to-drink cold beverages.
Can you recommend the top 5 cannabis recipes according to your taste?
I’m a big fan of everyday foods, snacks that can be made in advance and on hand when you want them, as well as everyday salads and smoothies. And if I’m going to cook I always go for a roasted chicken, it’s my favorite and there’s always some leftovers so the ramen below is perfect for leftover roasted chicken on cold Chicago winter days.
Here are some of my favorites: roasted chicken, cannabis-infused cashews, smoothie, collagen-peptide bombs, vinegar-roasted young hen, ramen.
According to your previous interviews, your team is still the same size as it was when the project was launched. Could you imagine Kitchen Toke as the massive media holding or friends concept is supreme?
I could absolutely see us partnering with a larger media house or growing organically to make it happen. I got my start at Meredith Publishing and we’ve created a lot of culinary cannabis content for Food & Wine media platforms—yes, definitely can see that.
Does Coronavirus affect your business? If yes, was it while the first wave, or do you still feel influence?
It absolutely does. When the first wave of the covid hit in late February of 2020, we were just about to ship our Spring issue to distributors and were able to stop it. Based on what was happening in Europe I knew we were headed toward some sort of lockdown so I kept all our issues in-house and we focused on online sales. We’ve been affected by short staff with our printers, paper supply, distribution or distributors going out of business. As covid continues, we’re looking at further changes and taking a wait and see approach—we had no idea, along with many others, we’d be struggling with covid 2 years later.
Your project was catalyzed by the idea that cannabis as a food implement can relieve pain. Also, you are sharing thrive stories of people, who overcame the pain with the help of cannabis, for example, Eugene Monroe, an NFL player. But even this fact can not conceive some people. What can be helpful for cannabis destigmatization?
I met Eugene Monroe in 2018—if you consider that a former NFL player who’s suffered multiple concussions, knee injuries, shoulder/rotator cuff injuries can get pain relief—imagine what it can do for the average person who works at a computer all day.
Second, I think we can talk all day but I created Kitchen Toke as a way for them to really see everyday food in the same way they enjoy other media like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Food Network, or any mainstream magazine. When you combine this imagery they’re familiar with along with the health and wellness information they’ve never considered cannabis for—I think we’re starting to move the needle.
There are 69 cannabis-dedicated restaurants in the USA. You experienced collaboration with Chef and conducted several cuisine events. Should we wait for Kitchen Toke Restaurant?
Absolutely not. I’ve spent many years reporting on the restaurant industry, many don’t know I’m still involved with US Foods—the second largest food distributor to the restaurant industry—I know how tough that business is. I can’t imagine owning or running a restaurant in this unregulated cannabis industry. I know they say to never say never, but this one I can definitely say NEVER. It takes special people to really run and love the restaurant industry, I have a lot of incredible friends who do it well—it’s not for me.
Kitchen Toke Infused Dinner Event: Prabal Gurung’s 10th Anniversary Celebration Dinner
Can you give us a little spoiler about the nearest updates or business plans? Maybe, new edibles in your shop or events?
Right now I’m really focused on Red Belly Honey (redbellyhoney.com). In June of 2020, we launched the world’s first honey infused with CBD from hemp by honeybees. We were named Food Pick of 2020 by Food & Wine, we were invited to showcase our honey at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, we won the Luxury Meets Cannabis Innovation Award in NYC and we’re about to hit grocery shelves in California at Erewhon Market. We’re also planning to exhibit at Expo West—the country’s largest natural product food expo.
THIS is one of the ways we’re normalizing the cannabis conversation. We can start with naturally infused CBD products—if it’s good for nature it’s good for us. I think it’s important to meet people where they are—most are not ready for full cannabis (marijuana) infused food, they can enter the market slowly with quality CBD pantry staples. That’s the goal anyway.
When bees eat our hemp nectar they’re able to fight off the poisons of pesticides
Your business is very diverse. Entertainments, pain relief, and even ecology. You have shared the video with an explanation of how does regenerative growing helps our planet. How had you come to such an interesting and unobvious side of the question? Will you develop any side projects on this topic?
I’m interested in human and bee health. When bees eat our hemp nectar they’re able to fight off the poisons of pesticides—we’re helping them survive longer, adding bees to the environment, as well as helping people eat functional foods. If there’s another way to do more of that—then yes, I’ll absolutely consider it.
Imagine, that once cannabis will be allowed everywhere. Will the world be a better or more dangerous place? Do you believe that it is possible?
I believe people are really looking hard at taking better care of themselves. The functional food and beverage industry is growing and expected to continue. Cannabis is a functional food.
These trends were already coming our way and were fast-tracked because of Covid. People understand that they are the only ones who can control their health—it was very apparent during covid there was nothing doctors, hospitals or over-the-counter medicines could do for us. So, yes, I think cannabis everywhere will help people to do this. I think most of us are running around with an endocannabinoid deficiency—I’m looking forward to the day it’s accessible to everyone. Too many people don’t have access to it now.
Also, as someone who’s grown up in a family that suffers from alcoholism and some drug addiction—I’d love to see more people replace alcohol with cannabis-infused beverages and learn to lean on better food or plants instead of pharmaceuticals if they can. It’s not for all conditions—but there’s a lot of cannabis can do before we need a pill.
What is your vision of Kitchen Toke in 2027?
As the nation continues to legalize, I think we have an opportunity to hold a candle to or complement a platform like Food & Wine.
Generally, we were talking about Kitchen Toke as a project. Let’s talk about Joline Rivera. How do you spend your leisure?
I’m running a startup, in both Kitchen Toke and Red Belly Honey so I’ll admit I don’t have a lot of leisure time. When I make time for myself I like to have some quiet time. That comes in a few different forms—long mornings in bed with coffee and books, reading, a 5 mile run along Lake Michigan, walking my two dogs with my boyfriend, spending Sunday afternoons baking, or trying out the latest Chicago restaurant.
We are very grateful to Joline for such an interesting and inspirational interview. And of course, for the great candor. We also hope that one day, marijuana antagonists will understand, that cannabis can be a pain killer or ordinary food flavor without ” being high ”
All photos were taken from official site of Kitchen Toke and Red Belly Honey.