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Chicago-based magazine cooks up pot-infused recipes

The front cover of the April 20, 2018 issue of Kitchen Toke magazine. | Cover art by Romy Buemel

The front cover of the April 20, 2018 issue of Kitchen Toke magazine. | Cover art by Romy Buemel

A pair of Chicago-based publishing veterans released the second issue of their cannabis cooking magazine Friday, casting aside the “special brownies” of yesteryear to focus on high-minded fare from award-winning chefs.

Laura Yee and Joline Rivera partnered to publish the first issue of Kitchen Toke in November. The duo specifically planned to drop the second issue on April 20, better known by pot proponents as 4/20, the unofficial cannabis holiday.

Yee, who serves as the editor-in-chief, previously wrote for The Plain-Dealer in Cleveland before moving to Chicago to contribute to a restaurant trade magazine. Rivera, the creative director, made cookbooks for Meredith Publishing and contributed to various magazines.

Joline Rivera | Provided photo

Rivera started thinking about undertaking a cannabis-related project when she saw the comforting effect the drug had on the father of a co-worker who was dying from cancer. She said the experience influenced her to create a more substantive publication.

“I can make pretty books and magazines, we can all do that,” Rivera said. “But I wanted something with more of a purpose. I wanted to look in the mirror everyday and say, lets do something that actually helps people.”

Rivera ultimately linked up with Yee, who was looking for a larger editorial role with more autonomy. A revelation came when Rivera saw Action Bronson, a Queens-based rapper and television personality, eating and smoking cannabis on one of his television shows on Viceland.

“He was getting high and he was eating, and I was telling Laura about it,” Rivera said. “She’s like, ‘why don’t you get high while you eat?’”

“So it all sort of came together,” she added.

They now want to turn their upstart magazine into “the definitive voice in cooking cannabis.”

In a piece from the latest issue, Brandon Baltzley forages in Cape Cod for ingredients to use in a cannabis-infused meal. Baltzley previously worked as a chef at top Chicago restaurants like Alinea, Schwa, Mado and Tribute.

For the meal, the chef fried muskrat legs with soft-shell clams and reindeer lichen, “a fungus with rich mushroom flavor that looks like moss and grows in grasslike tufts on the ground.” The dish, which came together as a fritto misto served with aioli, tasted of lemon and pine, Baltzley said. Venison leg and a fricassee of lobster were also on the menu, and a pine ice cream was served for dessert.

The issue, which retails for $16.95, also includes instructions for transforming store-bought rotisserie chickens into nuanced, cannabis-laced meals and crafting marijuana-infused cocktails for the spring season, among other things.

Yee and Rivera said they aim to transcend stoner stereotypes by offering cannabis-minded content that appeals to everyday, average folks. High Times and other stalwart marijuana magazines have their place in the market, Rivera said, but Kitchen Toke is catered to a broader audience.

Laura Yee | Provided photo

“Our magazine, visually and content-wise, speaks to people who are more everyday, mainstream people who might be turned off by that stoner imagery,” Rivera said.

The sharply-designed magazine certainly doesn’t have the usual trappings of a pot publication. The cover of the first issue was illustrated by Baltimore-based artist David Plunkert, whose work has also been featured on the cover of the New Yorker. Iliana Regan, whose restaurant Elizabeth earned a Michelin Star last year, also contributed a beautifully-photographed recipe for spaghetti squash with red sauce — and cannabis butter, of course. All copies of the issue sold out.

Kitchen Toke is currently available in all 635 Barnes and Noble stores, as well as Whole Foods stores in six states and a smattering of other grocery and book stores.  The magazine — which also offers a newsletter and additional content on its website, like videos and recipes — will soon be available at Whole Foods locations in Chicago, as well as Amazon’s brick-and-mortar and online shops. Yee and Rivera are also weighing whether to further expand distribution to more chains, including Wal-Mart and Kroger.

As public opinion continues to shift, they hope their brand can appeal to a growing number of cannabis enthusiasts. Last month, Yee noted, nearly 70 percent of Cook County voters supported a non-binding referendum regarding the legalization of recreation cannabis. The women want the magazine to help destigmatize cannabis use, which Yee relates to “having a glass of wine or drinking a beer.”

They plan to push out two more issues before year’s end, with the next edition slated to hit shelves on July 3.