Chicago native and former “Top Chef” contestant Dale Talde is competing in another televised cookoff focused on high-minded cuisine — only this time around, he’s getting the show’s celebrity judges high on elaborate pot-infused dishes.
Talde and fellow “Top Chef” alums Janine Booth and Kevin Gillespie will face off in the series premiere of “Bong Appetit: Cookoff,” airing Tuesday night on Vice Media’s burgeoning cable network Viceland.
“God rest his soul, but Anthony Bourdain once said that my food was a mix of a gourmet stoner delight,” Talde said. “He said my food was somewhat devious, and I think that’s kind of what Vice does.”
“I feel like our brands, what I do and what they do, work together,” Talde said.
In the episode, the trio of chefs serves up dank delicacies to a group of noted stoners, including Parliament Funkadelic visionary George Clinton and rapper B-Real, the show’s host.
Before rising to fame as a Top Chef hopeful, Talde grew up in the Ravenswood neighborhood and later moved with his family to the northwest suburbs. During his adolescent years at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Talde was no stranger to cannabis.
“When I was younger, I smoked weed all the time,” he said.
Aftert high school, Talde earned his cooking chops at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and later helped open a series of restaurants in Chicago and beyond, working alongside James Beard Award winners Carrie Nahabedian and Shawn McClain as well as “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto.
Talde made his first star turn when he placed sixth on “Top Chef: Chicago” in 2008. Most importantly for Talde, his appearance on the show allowed his family to see his cooking skills.
“It’s not 100 percent the kind of person you are, but people can see ability. They can grasp your ability from the show,” said Talde, who later placed sixth again on “Top Chef: All Stars” in 2010.
Despite his healthy appetite for pot, Talde said he had never really explored the possibilities of cooking with cannabis before he appeared on “Bong Appetit.”
“I’ve thrown weed into butter and made brownies but never at this level,” he said jokingly.
But on the show, Talde went far beyond pot brownies, crafting a hand roll with wagyu tartar, Dungeness crab soffits and a frozen Yuzu souflee — all of which were laced with THC and CBD.
“It’s exactly what you think cooking with weed is like: it’s chill, it’s fun,” Talde said. “There’s a certain amount of exploration and figuring it out, which is super cool because you need to know how things react with certain ingredients and how things taste.”
Nowadays, Talde lives in New Jersey and mostly uses cannabis to deal with the residual pain that comes from working in kitchens for over 20 years.
“As you get older — I’m 40 now, and I’ve been in the game since 20 — both my knees are no good, both my ankles are terrible, I have real lower back issues,” he said. “So I’m not gonna sit there and take painkillers. I use a little bit of cannabis and CBD oil to remedy that.”
While Talde remains focused on developing new restaurant concepts — including an upcoming project in Tarrytown, New York — he also recently started a hospitality brand with his wife, journalist Agnes Chung Talde. The company, Food Crush Hospitality, offers a range of services, including restaurant consulting, menu development and media coaching for people in the food industry.
Additionally, he’s using his media savvy and experience as a chef to pen a futuristic, restaurant-based screenplay that he hopes to develop into a feature film or a television series.
“We’re in the middle of writing it, and then next is selling the script,” he said.
As a special treat, here are Dale Talde’s favorite Chicago area restaurants for stoner-friendly munchies:
1. Carnicerias Guanajuato, 1436 N. Ashland Ave.
“It’s a taqueria that’s in a Mexican market on Ashland just south of North Avenue. And people don’t know because you go in and all of a sudden you see it’s a grocery store and then you go in the back and it’s like a taqueria. Their tacos are good, but I think their tortas are exceptional. If you don’t know, now you know!”
2. Park & Field, 3509 W. Fullerton Ave.
“It’s really great bar food. What I love about it is, it’s got a huge outdoor space … You can get dinner there, but it’s built for snacking.
3. The Works, 2676 W. Golf Road in Glenview
“That was always my munchie joint. Cheese fries, gyros, that’s like my jam. Take a couple rips [from a bong] and hang out there. That’s like the best.”